Beth Bechtel served her country as a member of the United States Navy for six years. For the last five though, she has been providing a different type of service to her community in Boise, Idaho.
Now the Founder and CEO of Bear Island Brewing Co., Bechtel’s entrepreneurial aspirations began prior to her experience in the Armed Forces. She just didn’t know beer would prove to be her craft. Between traveling the globe and examining her local options in Idaho, she quickly realized that Boise was lacking its own brand and she would be the one to provide it.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur at heart,” Bechtel said. “I just didn’t have the ‘what’ of what I really wanted to do exactly, I just knew it would be something I’m passionate about.”
Brewing Up a Business Idea
After reading books on the brewing process, studying the craft through YouTube videos and even writing recipes while aboard Naval ships, Bechtel, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Technician, knew beer was the business for her. She also saw a surprising hole in the Boise beer market.
“There wasn’t one Idaho beer on the shelf, in fact there wasn’t one on tap. And I thought, ‘wait a minute, that’s ridiculous. This is Boise, Idaho. People are very local proud and want to give to their community and support local businesses, so why is there no Boise beer?’,” she explained.
In 2014, Bechtel received a brewing certificate from Siebel Institute of Technology but much of what she learned in the Navy drives how she runs her business and how she deals with the challenges of being a CEO.
“No matter what bombs come up in business, we’re a little more prepared to disarm them,” she said.
‘Boise’s Biggest Little Brewery’
Bear Island Brewing will celebrate its fifth anniversary on November 30, which also coincides with Small Business Saturday. The anniversary celebration will take place in the brewery’s taproom, an important symbol of the business’s connection with Boise and the company’s growth. In fact, Bechtel and her husband have been brewing out of their garage to this point but will soon move production to its taproom in town and upgrading its brewing equipment. Bechtel insists they are keeping the business ‘purposefully small’ though.
The taproom also allows Bear Island to bring veterans together and other community groups.
“We work with our community partners in Mission 43. That’s an awesome organization that helps veterans transition after the military,” Bechtel explained.
As a business owner and veteran, Bechtel continues to advise returning military members in the Boise area on life after the Armed Forces and how they can best utilize their skills in the corporate world or any walk of life.
The brewery states its values are Service, Family and Community, three pillars that permeate everything Bear Island does. This includes an emphasis on local ingredients and partnerships with Idaho farmers. This is particularly evident in Bear Island’s ‘IPA’ (Idaho Potato Ale) and its Lady M imperial stout made with local lavender and chocolate.
“Service, Family, Community is just who we are,” Bechtel said. “We live and breathe this. When you come into our taproom and drink our beer, you’re part of our family.”
This Veterans Day, former military members can head to the Bear Island taproom from 4-6 p.m. MT to receive a pair of free pints courtesy of two local businesses. The taproom is located in the Old Firehouse #6 at 1620 N Liberty St., Boise, ID, 83704.