Tahoe native, craft beer guru team up to tap into brewery business
July 16, 2014
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Growing up in Portland, Ore., Kevin Drake knows a thing or two about beer.
The Kings Beach resident begin experimenting with beer crafting several years ago in the Pacific Northwest city that's billed as having the most breweries per capita in the world.
"Craft beer, for me, is that perfect balance of art and science … you get to work with your hands and your head and produce something that makes people happy," said Drake, who turned 36 on Tuesday. "It's like cooking — I see beer-making as a culinary art."
Drake and his business partner — Incline Village native Rich Romo — are close to bringing their art to the North Shore to taste, with the opening of Alibi Ale Works planned this summer.
Romo, who graduated in 1995 from Incline High School, hooked up with Drake several years ago after moving back to town from San Diego.
Both found they had similar aspirations to open a brewery. Their vision began to take hold about two years ago, and they eyed Kings Beach as a destination.
"We just couldn't find a suitable building … so little commercial property is available for what we're doing," Romo said. "But the goal was always North Shore."
So they kept looking, and soon enough, the property at 204 E. Enterprise St. in Incline Village became available.
"When this space opened, it's exactly what we wanted," Drake said during a recent interview at the property. "Part of it was just it was the right place at the right time. The stars aligned for us."
Drake and Romo closed on the property early this year and have been working since to renovate the building.
Initially, Alibi Ale Works will operate out of the property's front unit, a 2,975-square-foot space formerly occupied by Napa Auto Parts. Next spring, Drake and Romo will take over the 4,000-square-foot back unit, formerly occupied by SOS Auto Repair, to add additional manufacturing and storage space.
The business has already secured various county, state and federal licenses and permits. The goal is to open, complete with a bar and tasting room, by Labor Day.
Alibi will have as much as 12 to 15 beers on tap; brands will change as the months pass and the crew learns what works and what doesn't, Romo said.
"We want to be the neighborhood bar," he said. "Come fill your growler, your six pack, your keg from us … we're here for the locals."
But the business plan goes far beyond offering a new place for Happy Hour.
The only businesses in the North Shore/Truckee region, where beer is brewed on site, is FiftyFifty Brewing Co. in Truckee and Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., which opened a brewpub restaurant in 2012 in Tahoe City and now makes beer at its Truckee location.
Previously, the North Shore was home to Lake Tahoe Brewing Company in Crystal Bay and Blue Water Brewing in Tahoe City, but both closed years ago.
While FiftyFifty and Tahoe Mountain also serve food, Alibi's plan is to become a full-on production brewery and distribute to local and regional vendors, Drake said.
"Restaurants are a different animal for us," he said. "We want to focus on making a killer beer, getting it out and saturated throughout the North Tahoe region, something we can really take to everywhere everyone wants to be, and that people can be proud of."
And what people can be proud of is, if all goes to plan, a true Tahoe brand of beer.
Back in 1913, the Carson Brewing Company (which folded in 1948) created a "Tahoe Beer" brand, with the tagline "Famous as the Lake." But it's been nonexistent for decades.
"When tourists come to town, they ask, 'what's the local beer?'" Drake said. " Well, we don't have one. That's what we want to accomplish."
Alibi will be known for two primary lines of beer, what Romo and Drake refer to as "session" beers and "beer geek" beers.
"Session beer" is relatively low in alcohol content (generally 4.0-5.5 percent).
"Our session beers will be aimed at people with active lifestyles who are looking for refreshment and drinkability, not just a buzz, (which is) a large and untapped market in the Tahoe area," the partners wrote in their business plan. "Yet (it) will be full-flavored and interesting enough to earn the loyalty of seasoned beer geeks."
As for those "beer geek" beers, they're "bold and experimental beers using regional/seasonal ingredients, wild fermentation techniques, and oak barrel aging," according to the plan. "Some will be modern interpretations of traditional/historic beer styles, while some will be very innovative and experimental, occupying a growing niche in the craft beer world."
"We want to find a beer for everyone, and I mean everyone," Drake said. "There are people out there who don't consider themselves as beer people — I guarantee I can find something, because I really believe there's a beer out there for everyone."
Eventually, Alibi plans to create a growler program — similar to wine clubs offered in the region — that fosters "community supported brewing," Romo said.
"One of the main pillars of our business model is community impact — we're here to grow and employ more people, and take care of our staff at the same time," Drake added. "We want to provide an artistic space, too, to host music and for local artists to display their art. And we'll be partnering with different nonprofits and organizations, pint nights for charity events and things like that."
So with the plan seemingly firm in place, it leaves just one question: How did the name "Alibi Ale Works" come about?
"An alibi by definition is something that checks out. It's legit," Drake said. "We're not brewing crappy and soulless beer, the same old same old. Beer drinkers, they need an alibi, someone they can trust … and that's what our beer is going to be."
To follow the business's progress, visit facebook.com/AlibiAleWorks.