Clearwater Brewing Co. & beer:30 taproom
In fall 2016, retirement loomed ahead for Brian Brokop, but he had no idea what he wanted to do next. Then, he heard Lewis County commissioners discuss a brewers meeting with the local economic development council. With his curiosity piqued, Brokop found out that there was a push by Idaho tourism and economic officials to promote the state’s microbreweries.
“The light bulb went on,” he said. “I’ve been home brewing for more than 10 years and there is a need in this area for this type of business so . . . I went right to work on it.” Located within the Nez Perce Reservation, Lewis is one of the smaller counties, in terms of population and size, in Idaho and the Clearwater Valley. Kamiah is the largest city in Lewis County with a population less than 1,500.
Brokop, a former Lewis County sheriff, leased a long-vacant hair salon in Kamiah earlier this year, and began the months-long process of designing, fabricating and remodeling the space. A former contractor, he did most of the work himself, but relied on a friend or two, particularly Dave Wood, for help.
Less than a block off U.S. Highway 12 and steps from the scenic Clearwater River, the space brings to mind a cozy Santa Fe casita with thick walls. Brokop’s steampunk aesthetic also shines through with furniture, lighting and tap systems built by hand with wood and metal.
On September 1, he opened his new taproom to the public with 14 craft beers and ciders on draft. “I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of popular support from the community,” he said.
“Most everybody comes in with an open mind and they’re looking at trying something new and expanding the taste experience. There are still some people who come in and have their Keystone Light and Bud Light, which is fine because they’re coming in and enjoying the atmosphere. To me, it’s about providing variety and something new that you can’t necessarily get in the stores. And it’s also about creating flavors.”
Those flavors include blending beers and ciders, and mixing huckleberry syrup to sodas, iced tea and lemonade. For instance, he’s created a concoction called the Epic O, which combines Orlison Brewing’s Orangelicious Golden Ale from Spokane with Epic Brewing’s Son of a Baptist Coffee Stout from Salt Lake City. The result is a pint that tastes like an adult malt shake: a beery, creamy, chocolatey Orangesicle.
Brokop added, “People come in and say ‘I don’t like dark beers, I want something light.’ I had a man and woman come in yesterday, and for some reason, I can just look at people and kind of read them. I gave them a sample of the black lager (1910 from Wallace Brewing) and said, ‘You know, color is deceiving. Just go for the type of flavor.’ They both ordered and just absolutely loved it.”
If all goes well, Brokop hopes to start constructing the microbrewery side of the business in early 2018, aiming for completion by the middle of the year.