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Thursday, August 23,2012

Why not Niwot?

Craft beer seeps into local community with Bootstrap Brewing

By Michael Callahan
Photos by Jefferson Dodge

Like a freight train running downhill, the Colorado craft beer scene keeps gaining momentum. And as long as beer lovers continue chugging, our state will keep churning out new places for locals to savor their quaff. It’s time to say hello to one of your newest breweries — Niwot’s Bootstrap Brewing.

Steve and Leslie Kaczeus are longtime Boulder County residents who, like many of our state’s craft brewers, decided to leave their previous careers behind and follow their dream of tasting success making good beer. Longtime home brewers, Steve and Leslie took nearly five years to gain enough industry knowledge and confidence before opening their own establishment. As their search for a location to serve their beer ended up with a building two blocks away from their home, the Kaczeuses realized the serendipity.

“We live here in downtown Niwot, and we were always hoping that we could find a location near here,” Leslie Kaczeus says. “We tried a few different things, but none of those seemed to work out. As soon as this space became available we just jumped on it.”

“We always wanted to be the neighborhood brewery, and when this came up we were like, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s perfect,’” Steve Kaczeus says of their building at 6778 79th St.

With the help of brew guru Dave Mentus — a 15-year veteran of the local brew scene, including stints at Mountain Sun on Pearl Street and The Pumphouse in Longmont — Bootstrap Brewery opened June 20 at the Cottonwood Square shopping center near the Diagonal Highway and Niwot Road.

“This is the first time I’ve ever helped someone start brewery, and it’s been great. It’s definitely a lot of hard work, but to start something from the ground up is pretty rewarding,” Mentus says.

“We’re in a different location than most production breweries, in that we are around so many great restaurants,” Leslie says. “There are so many people that work in Boulder and live in Longmont, and a lot of them ride their bike. We’re exactly halfway home on the path.”

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Their recipes have been a labor of love borne from 20 years of basement brewing. After refining their taste by trial and error, Bootstrap became convinced they had a good product once a focus group of their friends gave its approval. The result has been a revolving cast of good beers that will culminate in Bootstrap’s entry into this year’s Great American Beer Festival.

“It’s fun playing around with the making of the beers and inventing and just introducing new things for people to try,” Steve says. “It’s turned out uncannily, amazingly well. The feedback we got from our first set of beers has just been incredible. It’s kinda been rolling like this.”

Illustrating the fervor our state has for craft beer, Boulder County’s latest foray into the brew industry has grown faster than planned as it tries to satiate thirsty locals.

“We weren’t going to be doing any kegging or distribution to restaurants for six months to a year down the line, and we’ve had people come in from other restaurants, drink our beers and want to get them on tap,” Steve Kaczeus says.

The harmony between Colorado breweries is evident, as Bootstrap’s first restaurant customer was a company that might not need to expand its selection, but is willing to do so for a good craft product.

“We had a keg-tapping party with Oskar Blues, and our IPA was gone in like two hours,” Steve says. “Next thing you know, West End Tavern is looking for a line of Bootstrap. Now we’re in the Kitchen in Boulder and Denver. We’re up to six restaurant accounts.”

Speaking of the modest digs that house their brewing equipment and tasting room, Steve seems surprised yet content that business has taken off.

“We’re OK being this small, and supporting the local community and them supporting us,” he says. “It’s just interesting we’ve gotten so much pull from other people and it’s causing us to grow. And we’re OK with that.”

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Bootstrap is benefiting from the quick word-of-mouth marketing due to patrons stopping by for its 1956 Golden Ale or Insane Rush IPA. Many swing by after work to indulge in a pint and a bite to eat from one of the neighboring restaurants.

Most of all, the Kacszeuses feel lucky that their beer is good enough to be embraced by those who know their craft.

“I think the best referral we’ve gotten has been from the other breweries,” Leslie says.

“It’s great to see them here because it gives us confirmation that our beers are good. They wouldn’t be coming in if not,” Steve says.

Despite the bubbly comments, both owners know there is more work to be done.

But having discovered the family that is craft brewing in Colorado, Steve says there is no place they’d rather be.

“Every day has been a new experience for us. It’s been stressful; there’s been a lot of anxiety,” Steve says. “But it’s been fun, rewarding, it’s been a really cool journey so far. We are hoping that it keeps going.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com


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