“The Biggest Little City in the World” is quickly becoming known for its growing craft beer scene. Beer lovers worldwide are standing up and taking notice of Reno’s craft breweries.
One such Nevada-inspired brewery is putting its spin on traditional beer styles. IMBIB Custom Brews, with taprooms in Reno and Sparks, makes beer for virtually everyone ranging from award-winning German Lager, Hop Forward Beer, Barrel-Aged Beer, and Belgian Beer.
Matt Johnson and Jason Green, co-founders of IMBIB, trace their roots to homebrewing. With over 25 years of combined experience as at-home brewers, these two transitioned from the hobbyist school of hard knocks to professionals. Jason and Matt learned the fundamentals on a small scale. They experimented, learned from their mistakes, and applied that knowledge to their award-winning quality beers on a larger scale.
The back story is an interesting one. The idea for IMBIB was formed in 2014. Originally it was going to be a combination of a homebrew shop and a brew-on-premise manufacturing plant. After looking at the market, Matt, Jason, and Bart Blank, all very active homebrewer locals, decided to take the plunge and go all in as a brewery and barrel house.
It was felt at the time years ago that the Reno market didn’t have any breweries that were pushing the boundaries with sour and other barrel-aged beers. IMBIB wanted to fill that void.
In 2019, IMBIB expanded to open a second taproom to continue its focus on selling direct-to-consumer rather than trying to compete in the topsy-turvy wholesale distribution market. IMBIB has never pursued a business model to be in every bar or on every grocery store shelf. The economics don’t work for quality breweries at their scale.
Today, IMBIB has created the most diverse and authentic lineup of beer in Northern Nevada. There is always a beer on IMBIB’s tap list that will please every palate.
Reno is IMBIB’s home. IMBIB currently has a mix of full-time and part-time employees. The company looks to hire folks who want to learn about beer and are interested in becoming IMBIB ambassadors. With Jason Green heading up brewing operations, respect and awards have followed at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, and Best of Craft Beer Awards.
What is “very cool” about IMBIB? The IMBIB team tries not to be cool. Yes, they do make a range of different beers and have many that serious beer collectors seek out. But they try not to be snobby about what they are doing. It’s as simple as wanting everyone to feel welcome, even if they are not die-hard craft beer fans. That is the core culture that IMBIB seeks to create.
IMBIB’s success story is simple. They started brewing on a very small scale because there was little money for a bigger investment. Brewing a few kegs at a time kept the group above water for a few years but allowed them to finally invest in a larger system. The focus on quality kept people coming back. Beer customers became sour beer converts.
IMBIB’s crowning achievement was winning the World Beer Cup gold medal this past summer. The World Beer Cup is like the Olympics of Beer. The event truly represents the best of the best from around the world. IMBIB won for its Triad in the Belgian-style Sour Ale category.
The biggest challenges IMBIB faces? Competition and archaic laws that most small independent breweries face. The number of breweries in the U.S. doubled since 2015, when there were less than 5,000 breweries. The small brewery space is very competitive now.
In addition, Nevada is one of just a handful of states that doesn’t allow for some small-scale self-distribution. IMBIB hopes Nevada will soon move to support the state’s small breweries and level the playing field now dominated by macro-breweries in the casinos.
In the meantime, IMBIB will continue to focus on selling direct-to-consumer to keep the revenue flowing. Aside from many patrons visiting their two taprooms daily in Reno and Sparks, IMBIB is also pursuing a restaurant location to share its products with the public.
What is the most common question that IMBIB staff gets asked almost daily? It’s what the I-M-B-I-B name stands for. Most people have never heard the word “imbibe,” which means to take in or up. IMBIB ultimately opted for having something other than a long, complex name that many homebrew clubs are notorious for.
What does the IMBIB staff wish people would ask? “What styles of beer do you brew?” The answer is, “So many. We are much more than just sour beers.” Other questions would surround, “What makes a sour beer sour? “How does your approach differ from other local breweries?” What are you doing to work toward environmental sustainability? IMBIB has answers to all of these questions.
As a popular phrase goes, people enjoy beer because many know “you don’t win friends with salad.” IMBIB has award-winning beers for every palate, and a visit to one of their two taprooms will confirm it.
NCET Tech Wednesday, Dec. 14, is your opportunity to learn more about IMBIB and the basics and more of brewing beer from grain to glass. And, of course, you get to taste a few beers too!
Sign up early for IMBIB’s presentation from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and networking from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information at NCET.org.
Bill Leonard is VP of Communications at NCET and a freelance copywriter for the Senior Health, Wealth, Lifestyle, and Care Market. Connect with Bill at linkedin.com/in/billleonardusa. NCET produces education and networking events to help people explore business and technology.