Thirst for success
These are heady times for the Silver State’s craft brewing industry.
According to statistics by the Brewers Association, the Craft Beer Market in 2014 was a $19.6 billion dollar industry in the U.S. and there are more than 52,000 barrels of craft beer produced annually in Nevada.
“The craft brewers industry has been booming for the last 15 years,” Matt Johnson, one of the founders of IMBIB Custom Brews, said. “It did not slow down during the recession.”
IMBIB Custom Brews is one of Reno’s newest craft beer bars and breweries.
Jason Green, Bart Blank and Matt Johnson founded the business in 2013 and slake customers’ thirst with old-world barrel-aged beers along with malty, sour and hoppy brews. They opened their bricks-and-mortar location in May 2015.
It took a while to find the right location for the business.
“We looked all over Reno,” Johnson said. “We wanted a space that had high ceilings, an industrial feel and also was appealing to the general public.”
They eventually found a building on Craigslist at 785 E. 2nd St. that had the feel they were looking for in 2014.
“When we went inside we saw that it was exactly what we needed,” said Johnson.
However, the space was completely empty and did not have any plumbing or walls. It took eight months to do the $50,000 worth of renovations and get all the brewing permits before its grand opening.
“It’s working out great,” Johnson said. “People really love the tap room space and the brewery space is working well.”
The business currently has three employees and Johnson said they expect to continue to grow.
“(I enjoy) being able to share our products with the public and engage the community,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained that the most challenging aspect of running a craft brewery is complying with all the regulations. They must adhere to regulations for selling beer in the state, city and county. They had to learn how to run the business by doing research and learning from other experts.
“We have done it all through personal research and by talking to other people in the craft brewery business,” Johnson said.
IMBIB Custom Brews was one of the ten finalists competing in the first business pitch competition at the Governor’s Conference on Business in August at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Although Johnson did not place, he stressed the benefit of being able to compete in the competition.
“Just being able to present in front of these business leaders…it’s huge,” Johnson said. “For us, any opportunity to talk about our business is fantastic.”
During the pitch, Johnson said that one of his strategies was to partner with non-profits.
“I come from a non-profit background,” said Johnson, “Non-profits were helpful to get our (business) model off the ground.”
Some of the non-profits that they have backed are Urban Roots, The Folk & The Lore and this month they are boosting the Children’s Cancer Foundation.
Another tactic the business has implemented is its membership program called the Collaborator Club. It is based on a community-supported agricultural model where a farmer or producer accepts annual payment up front and the investors receive a share.
In IMBIB’s case people pay an annual fee of $350 or $170 a year depending on which level they wish to buy and members receive a monthly allotment of beer, many which are not available to the public, and discounts.
The program currently has 70 members and hopes to get 200. “I think that craft breweries will continue to grow,” Johnson said. “We may see it level out in the next five years.”
IMBIB is open Thursday between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The business hopes to eventually expand their hours to be open six days a week.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.