Strange brew

PHOTO/D. Brian Burghart

Matt Johnson and his partners have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to help start a brewery focusing on the home brewer, community and collaboration. It's called Imbib Custom Brews, and its the kind of thing at which Reno and its denizens have long excelled. All the details can be found at www.indiegogo.com/projects/imbib-custom-brews-help-us-find-a-home.

Tell me a little bit about what you have going.

My partners [Jason Green and Bart Blank] and I are working on a brewery that engages people in the process far more than your average brewery. We're all homebrewers, so we really want to brew beer and get it out into people's hands in a different way. One way is a club-based model that is based on community-supported agriculture, where somebody pays an annual fee, and they get a guaranteed quantity of beer once a month, and they also get a say in what we brew—not everything we brew, but some of the stuff that we brew. It's a new model. There's a few people around the country doing it, but it hasn't really been totally tested yet. That's one piece.

What’s another?

Continuing on the theme of engaging people, we know that there's a niche market for custom brews, for people's weddings, events, things like that. I've done this many times as a home brewer—brewed a beer for a friend's wedding. But again, we're trying to take it to another level where we would actually provide a service where we could provide a custom brew. Part of it is like a consultation process, where you'd taste eight different beers, you'd tell us what you like. We'd get a range of beers, you'd tell us what you like about each of those, and then we'd design a recipe around that.

I suppose you’d have specialized labels for a larger event.

Exactly.

I’m getting the idea.

Not only the recipe, but a custom package so that it demonstrates that the event is unique in some way. Part of our model is to really engage the home brewing community. There are a couple of home brew shops, one home brew shop that just opened up in Reno, and then there's the existing one. We still think that we would provide supplies in some ways, but we probably wouldn't launch a retail part of our business, just because …

It’s probably not sustainable for three homebrew shops in Reno.

Yeah, exactly.

I see it as part of the Indiegogo campaign, it includes lifetime memberships and those sorts of things. You just started that off. What made you decide that method for getting funding?

We have been working on this model for a little while. In a typical scenario, you would probably do the Indiegogo piece last. But we need both big and small investors. Indiegogo is obviously on the smaller side. But for us to get our brewery up and running, we have to have a physical space. Before you can even apply for a license, you've got to have a space. Right now we need that funding to get into a space so that we can get our licensing and really start putting out a product. We're fearful that if we wait until some of the other funding pieces come into place, just given the competitiveness of brewing in Reno, and the buzz we've built at this point, that might die out pretty quickly, and so we've been donating beer to a lot of events as home brewers, and we just felt like there were enough people talking about it, that this was the time to strike.