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Bayard native brews up big success
March 18, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Courtesy photo Kinkaider Brewing Company staff and their families gather on the brewing floor, where new 600-gallon tanks tripled their capacity. In just its second year of operation, Kinkaider is experiencing aggressive growth in Nebraska.

When Cody Schmick graduated from Bayard High School in 2002, little did he know his future would include a partnership in one of the fastest growing craft breweries in western Nebraska.

Kinkaider Brewing Company, located on a two-acre farm just north of Broken Bow, started brewing about 14 months ago. In the beginning, the beer was brewed in eight 300-gallon tanks. Since then, demand has exploded. The company sold its 300-gallon tanks and replaced them with 600-gallon models. The Kinkaider brew master also started brewing twice a day, which tripled their capacity. Kinkaider beers are now being sold in more than 200 retail outlets, from Omaha to Ogallala.

Schmick said he’s now contacting a possible distributor in the local area to bring their beer farther west in Nebraska. “The craft beer industry is incredibly exciting to be a part of right now,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be able to do it right in our own backyard here in Custer County.

Schmick said his father ran the butcher shop in the Bayard Jack and Jill store for almost 20 years. After the store burned down in 2003, the family bought into a grocery store in McCook and moved there. Later they expanded to another store in Broken Bow, and Cody and his wife and family moved there to manage it.

“A couple of guys knew I was interested in craft brewing, so they invited me to their home brew club,” he said. “Soon after that I was writing a business plan and let the guys take a look. They jumped on board and that’s how we started.”

At first the group was unsuccessful in finding a suitable placed to open, but were soon approached by local rancher and entrepreneur Barry Fox, who had a site that might work for them.

“We met Barry at his place just north of town,” Schmick said. “He suggested we take a page from the Nebraska winery handbook and make a brewery on a little, two-acre farm where we can have a nice, outdoor beer garden with space to expand.”

Offering them a great deal on the rent, Fox became a partner in the company.

“That was the piece we were missing,” Schimek said. “From there we just went forward like a freight train and opened on December 27, 2014.”

Since then, the company has been selling beer as fast as they can brew it. “With triple our original capacity, we should meet our goal of growing throughout the state. We not only want to grow our own brewery, but also the entire craft beer industry in Nebraska.”

He cited statistics that show 15 to 20 percent of consumption in the nationwide beer market comes from small, craft breweries. In Nebraska, it’s only about two percent. However, he expects the market will continue to grow.

“There are only about two or three craft breweries outside Lincoln and Omaha,” Schmick said. “The industry is funny in that our competition isn’t other craft breweries. Our competition is getting folks converted from the big domestic beers to craft beers.”

In their first year of brewing, Kinkaid offered about 30 different styles of beer. Currently they offer 12 beers on tap in their facility that seats about 80 people. This spring, they’re building a kitchen to offer “pub grub” as well. The store also has a 1,200 square foot deck for outdoor seating.

“We also like to brew some seasonal beers,” Schmick said. “We offered a Shandy style last summer, a pumpkin ale in the fall and a winter ale at Christmas time.”

The company name came from the Kinkaid Act of 1904. Nebraska’s original Homestead Act allowed homesteaders a claim of 160 acres. However, in the dry Sand Hills, that amount of land was insufficient for larger scale farming. So the Kinkaid Act expanded the claim to 6,000 acres. Large numbers of people came to Broken Bow to stake a new, larger claim to land. They became known as Kinkaiders.

In addition to Schmick, who serves as front of house manager, insurance agent Nate Bell is also a partner. He’s also been home brewing for about 20 years and is the company’s buyer. Dan Hodges, originally from Thedford, is their brew master. Barry Fox is the chief financial officer for the group.

“My job involves a lot of marketing and customer relations, as well as the tap room,” Schmick said. “We want to do more than just flood the market. We want people to be excited about buying our beer. That means we want a calculated growth.”

In order for the small, craft brewing industry to continue growing, favorable business conditions need to be in place. That piece of the puzzle seems to be coming together.

With the increasing interest in craft beers and brewing, the state has taken notice. State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill has introduced legislation that would create the Nebraska Craft Brewery Board, which would function under the Department of Agriculture. The advisory board would provide advice on the industry to the Legislature and work with lawmakers to streamline and modernize laws governing alcohol.

Larson’s bill, LB 1105, amends the craft brewery license limit of 20,000 barrels. Some craft brewers expressed concern about possible penalties for exceeding that limit. In effect, it would relax some of those restrictions and encourage the growth of the craft brewing industry in Nebraska. The bill also creates a new liquor license class for small breweries that sell a limited amount of alcohol on the premises.

“This bill is really needed,” Schmick said. “Without it, growth of the entire industry could be stifled. The bill sounds like it’s getting some support among our senators.”

The bill advanced to select file after a technical amendment on March 9. It’s now the responsibility of the Speaker of the Legislature to schedule bills for final reading prior to voting.

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