Imagine yourself after a long, hard ride back in the wild west days. You are in desperate need of a good beer. Then out of nowhere appears this sign - Bolo Beer Co. You tie up your horse and make your way up to the bar. "Bartender, something cold and refreshing", you bellow out. From behind the bar, the barkeeper brings you an Aquifer Ale. Your response, "That is a mighty fine beer, don't stray to far. I might need another..." Then to your right is none other than Americus and the Liberator two of the finest IPAs west of the Mississippi. You now know that the ride to Valentine, Nebraska was well worth it!
Fast forward to today where Valentine is known as a resort town with canoeing and tubing on the beautiful Niobrara river. Hiking and biking along the Cowboy Trail and taking in other scenic places like Smith Falls. Rolling sand hills covered with pine trees along the river is an amazing site even for a native Nebraskan. Two brothers grew up believing in their town and wanting to make a place where people could come and enjoy each others company.
Kyle and Kurt Arganbright felt that there was something missing in their community. Craft beer choices were very limited around the restaurants, stores, and bars in town. There was a need for something local, something people could enjoy in their town. So in 2014, the decision was made to open a brewery but one thing was missing - a brewmaster. Kyle told me that he placed an advertisement on the internet describing the opportunity. It wasn't too long before Chris Hernstrom from Bend, Oregon responded to the ad. Kyle ended up meeting Chris in Denver for the Great American Beer Fest. Chris was very intrigued for the opportunity to continue to grow his brewing skills so he left Boneyard Beer and packed his bags for Valentine. Did I mention Chris did this without ever going to check out Valentine!
If you were to think about an opening day what better day than Valentine's Day! In 2016, Bolo Beer Co opened its doors in a location very close to the current one. The original space was great to get started with but it didn't take long to outgrow it. Kyle said they found the current building which was an old diesel shop. The building had plenty of space for the brewing equipment and a nice taproom area. Also the property had plenty of room for a great patio! There were a lot hours of hard work that went into the renovation of the building. Kyle said the main focus was to emphasize the local area and to find items that could be repurposed to put into the brewery. There are so many items that you have to see it for yourself to get a great appreciation from the old barn wood and lights to the newspapers that cover the bar top. Canoes hanging from the ceiling and a 70+ year old popcorn machine from a local establishment that still works!
I had to ask Kyle what sets Bolo Beer Co apart from other craft beers. Kyle responded, "Our goal is to have well balanced, drinkable beers. It all starts with the water. Having the Ogallala Aquifer water helps tremendously." As we continued to discuss this, Kyle went on to say that the other key is having a brewer who is knowledgeable and creative. Being able to experiment with small batches and see how the community responds to the beer is critical in coming up with new brews. As a consumer, I have to say I personally like this model. Variety for me is key. Yes every brewery needs their core beers but there is always the intrigue of wondering what will the new beer will be when you walk into the brewery.
Besides the beer itself, Kyle described wanting a place for the community to be able to come together. The brewery was designed to be family and dog friendly. When I walked into the brewery that night, there was a lot of great conversations going on. Immediately you could tell that this was a place where people come to hang out and enjoy each others company. As I sat at the bar, I met a couple that had travelled from California to ride bikes from Norfolk to Valentine on the Cowboy Trail. They talked about their search for small breweries across the country and said Bolo Beer Co was a fun part of their trip to Nebraska. People having a good time is what it is all about. Kyle said they have open mic nights for area bands to come in and play music. This has been quite the hit at the brewery. One night, three bands came to the brewery and everyone enjoyed the show!
Bolo Beer Co is all about supporting local and the community. Kyle described to me using local hops whenever they can. They have also used such things as:
Wild Plums in a Gose
Pears in a Saison
Peaches in an IPA
Coffee in a Blonde Ale
This is really cool to see local items being used in the beers that they produce. Kyle also went on to say they enjoy working with local charities and supporting them. As you can see the heart hanging from the ceiling in the brewery really shows the love Bolo Beer Co has for their community!
Always a bunch of good stories when you visit a brewery. This one is definitely a favorite of mine! Americus Liberator might just be the most famous resident of Valentine. This retired cowboy made news across the nation in 1968 when he decide to run for president. Americus had an interesting platform including wanting to see horses grazing on the White House lawn. I can picture Americus riding a horse in Washington, D.C. Even though Americus never got many votes, he was recognized around the country. He was interviewed by the Boston Globe and the people of the country loved sending Americus mail. He went on to run for president again in 1972, 1976, and 1980. You have to check out the rest of the story from History Nebraska on the Curious Candidacy of Americus Liberator.
Oh before I saddle back up ... ok get ready to leave in my Jeep. I need to finish one more thing I learned. A big part of cowboys back in the day was to wear a Bolo tie. A Bolo tie is one that is made up of a piece of cord or braided leather with decorative metal tips and clasp. A great name for a brewery! Really ties back to the history of the area.
I know if you make your way to Valentine that you will have a great time. Enjoy this incredible town and all it has to offer. Have a pint or two and raise your glass to Americus!
For more information on Bolo Beer Co check out their website.