By Gregory Daurer | Jan 28, 2016
Woodland Empire Ale Craft just celebrated its second anniversary in January. "We've been quite successful in the two years," says Landerman. "I have absolutely no complaints with our growth. We did 1,800 barrels last year. We're planning on doing much more than that [in 2016]. I think that we have managed to add to Boise's beer scene and help it grow."
Landerman and her husband, Rob, met in Austin, Texas, where they began homebrewing together. Rob managed a beer bar, and then brewed professionally in San Antonio. Keely began commercially brewing with the inception of Woodland Empire Ale Craft.
After deciding to open their own brewery, the Landermans relocated to Boise. Keely says they chose Idaho because it's less saturated with breweries, and less expensive, than in California, Oregon, or Washington -- yet it's still part of the IPA-loving Northwest. She says, "We've been received really, really well. Boise's been extremely supportive and very, very receptive to what we've come out with." She salutes the city for its "great community of breweries and beer drinkers."
Befitting a brewery co-founded by a woman who once played in an Austin-based band, Keely says, "We're very much inspired by music and books and the arts." Her "go-to beer" at Woodland Empire is Electric Warrior -- a "smooth and silky" oatmeal stout named after an album by British glitter band T. Rex. A tasty amber, Moondog, derives its moniker from the composer dubbed the "Viking of Sixth Avenue." Return Of The Rivers Porter draws inspiration from a poem by counterculture writer Richard Brautigan, and the winter warmer Invincible Summer pays homage to a quote by French author-philosopher Albert Camus.
"We set out to make good beers, and our takes on some classic styles, while still challenging people," says Keely. "Brew true to style and, yet, maybe put in a little flair or two, here and there."
Favorite beers: Rob and Keely Landerman both list a favorite beer on the Woodland Empire website (Keely selected Hair of the Dog's Adam). Displaying a sense of community and a spirit of sharing, the site also provides recipes for a few of their own beers, as well as nods to sympatico businesses and collaborators in town. And it serves as a gallery for the brewery's label art, which Keely illustrates.
As far as what's been catching her fancy at Woodland Empire Ale Craft lately, Keely cites Les Bois saison: "It's got a really nice, bready backbone. We use raw white wheat and spelt that's grown in Idaho. Then we use a blend of saison yeasts. The saison yeast lends such a wonderful character. . . . It's just a wonderful beer."
Challenges: Although Woodland Empire isn't distributed statewide just yet, Keely says Idaho's population imposes limits on just how much can be sold: "We have, then, in turn, broadened our market. We're selling in Vancouver, B.C., we're selling in Oregon, we sell in Wisconsin, and we also go through this online bottle shop called Tavour in Seattle. So we've expanded our market to kind of compensate for that, realizing we can only do so much within Idaho -- which is fine."
Opportunities: New markets. "We are looking at possibly expanding into another state or two," says Keely. "But that's just something we're looking at closely, [as we consider] our production and the demand and everything. We want to make sure we're not going to overextend ourselves. I see a lot of opportunities in the future -- for us and for a lot of the breweries around here. It's kind of an exciting time."
Furthermore, with hotels and condos springing up across the street from the brewery, Woodland Empire Ale Craft will serve even more as a relaxed, neighborhood brewpub. Keely says, "When we first opened, we kind of heard people's skepticism as far as our choice of location. But you could see with the developments going on that something is happening. . . . We wanted our vibe to be just like you're hanging out in somebody's living room. Just really chill, really mellow. No TVs. You just kind of talk to each other, and there can be some music and lowlights. You know -- good times."
Needs: Landerman says the brewery needs extra tanks: "Not necessarily fermentation, but brite [tank] space so we can clarify our beers in there. We don't filter any of our beers, so they just need a little bit of extra time to settle out and become clear. We do have some tanks coming on order which should be here at the end of February."
Presently the brewery is making-do with two 30-barrel and four 15-barrel fermenters, as well as one 30-barrel and two 15-barrel brite tanks. They fill bottles with a DIY-made, four-head counterpressure filling machine. And they hire the mobile service Northwest Canning, which stops by once or twice per month, for their canning needs.