Boise Brewpub Tour

Brewed Awakening - The Birth of Payette Brewing, Part 3

Originally published 10/04/2010

Mike Francis had a feeling that starting a brewery in Garden City would be a rocky venture. As it turns out, that was literally the case a few months ago, when he found himself thigh deep in a trench removing a voluminous amount of rocks to make way for an expanded sewer line that could handle the needs of a business that sends a lot of used liquids down the drain.

As you'll recall from Part 2 of this series, Mike took possession of a former hydraulic shop on April 14th of this year. All along he knew he'd have to redo the water and sewer lines so they would meet the needs of a production brewery and pass city inspections. So when it was time to start working on it, he did what any rational person would do: call a plumber to come out and tell him where the existing lines were. What he didn't expect was that the plumber would be dead wrong when he marked where the existing sewer line came into the area that will eventually serve as the brewery's tasting room. Of course, Mike had no way of knowing that the plumber was wrong until after he actually got himself a jackhammer and started busting up chunks of the concrete slab, removing them, and loading them on a truck, with only the help of one of his buddies.

"I got down to where he said it would be, and there was nothing there," says Mike as he points to the spot on the floor. "So I moved over a bit and still didn't find it. Then I figured it might just be a little deeper, so I dug some more looking for it."

A portion of the sewer trench

In the end, Mike had dug down three feet where the plumber had told him, and still he didn't find the sewer line. What he did find, however, were rocks. Lots of them. Apparently when the building was originally constructed, the builders didn't bother to use clean fill as the base for the building. Instead they simply poured the concrete slab over the good ol' Boise River flood plain, which as we all know contains more smoothly rounded river rocks than dirt. The entire sewer replacement job netted enough rocks to completely cover the landscaping area in front of the building, and he still has a pallet of rocks left over.

Just a few of the rocks Mike dug up

   Curbing in the brewing room

It took a call to a second plumber to finally sort out the sewer situation, after which the new line was laid and new concrete was poured in the trench. The scar from the trench is clearly visible in the main brewing room and the future tasting room, but to Mike it's a clear indication of progress.

Slowly but surely, despite a summer of logistical setbacks and legal hurdles, things are getting done. He's repainted most of the inside walls. Old shelves and other undesirable structures have been removed. He has a few pallets of empty kegs. A glycol chiller sits in its crate ready to be installed. A concrete retaining curb is in place in the brewing room, ready to keep water, wort, and beer from getting too far from the new drain in the center of the room. And there are new lights everywhere, eliminating the dark, cavernous feel the place had when he took possession.

Empty kegs yearning to be filled

"I just got the track lighting up yesterday," Mike says as he points to the new black light fixtures in the tasting room. "It really helps me get a feel for what the finished room will look like. It's almost to the point that I can see myself saying, 'Yeah, that's a place I'd like to sit down and have a beer'."

          New lighting

Yet, despite his grain-milling room being framed, painted, and basically complete, the brewing room is lacking a few key components -- namely a mash tun, four fermentation tanks, and all the electronics and piping that go with them. The reason? Yet another delay. Whether it's putting in extra sprinkler heads to meet the fire code, or replacing the toilets to satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act, or figuring out the correct people to listen to (it's the ones with the power, he says), opening a brewery seems to be one unexpected delay after another.

The latest delay is particularly unnerving. His brand-new brewing equipment was supposed to show up at the end of September, but factory delays have pushed the delivery back to mid-October. Because no equipment obviously means no beer, Mike's goal to brew by the end of the year just got a little more difficult. After all, the equipment has to be assembled and tested, and then Mike has to get a feel for it before he can start real commercial production. But there's still hope. When the equipment does come in, Mike says the vendor he purchased the equipment from down in San Diego is going to come up to Idaho and put the stuff together, which should make it go a lot faster that if Mike had to do it himself.

So while there might not be any beer flowing yet at Payette Brewing, it is certainly coming. The tap handles are being fabricated. Mike has stickers for his kegs. And he also has permits, blueprints, and an awesome sewer line. Oh, and rocks -- lots of nice heavy rocks that are free to any beer drinker willing to wait a little bit longer for the good stuff to come.

Brewed Awakening - The Birth of Payette Brewing: