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Tapping Rural America: Craft Breweries Pour New Life Into Small Towns

Bolo Beer Company conduct brewer Chris Hernstrom traded a hopped Northwest for a comparatively still Great Plains, looking for a new challenge.

Kirk Siegler/NPR


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Kirk Siegler/NPR

Bolo Beer Company conduct brewer Chris Hernstrom traded a hopped Northwest for a comparatively still Great Plains, looking for a new challenge.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

Chris Hernstrom was brewing in a qualification drink mecca of Bend, Ore., when an ad held his eye: Want to live somewhere beautiful and make drink for a tiny community?

“It usually seemed like an engaging plea to come out to fundamentally a accurate conflicting of Bend, some place where a brewing attention is still in a fledgling stages,” Hernstrom says.

That place, Hernstrom’s new home, is a cattle ranching heart of Valentine, Neb., race 2,700, tucked into a Niobrara River hollow in a Sand Hills.

Hernstrom is conduct brewer during a Bolo Beer Company. On a new weeknight he was pouring pints of Aquifer Ale and stuffing carry-out growlers of Wild West Wheat. With a complicated match lights and bar done of reclaimed wood, a newly non-stop taproom looks like it would be some-more during home in Seattle or Denver than farming Nebraska.

The Next Big Thing In Beer Is Being A Small Taproom

And that’s no accident. After Hernstrom was recruited to town, he beheld there were a lot of recently transplanted 20- and 30-somethings, some new to town, though many who had changed home after being divided for college or vital in cities.

“They know what they like about those other places they’ve lived, and so they’re perplexing to make that occur here in a tiny towns,” he says.

Situated in remote north-central Nebraska along a South Dakota state line, a segment has been graying and emptying out for decades.

But in Valentine during least, there are signs this is changing.

“I feel like I’m in a city,” says Whitney Mayhew, recalling stepping inside a new brewery for a initial time recently.

Valentine, Neb., race 2,700, is a largest city of a distance for during slightest a two-hour expostulate in any direction.

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Valentine, Neb., race 2,700, is a largest city of a distance for during slightest a two-hour expostulate in any direction.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

Mayhew’s father grew adult in Valentine, and a integrate motionless to immigrate from Columbia, S.C., final year to be closer to family. They saw a niche and non-stop a new boutique wardrobe store a few blocks divided from a Bolo taproom.

She says a brewery has quick turn a village entertainment place and it supports other new businesses.

“You’re really saying a lot of people wanting to find ways that this city can grow and attract some-more people to come in here who wish to suffer a small, elementary life,” Mayhew says.

The “simple life” comes with a few adjustments.

“I skip my Target,” Mayhew says, laughing. “We had Target 7 mins divided [in South Carolina].”

It’s some-more than a three-hour expostulate now to a nearest airport. And a closest vital city is Denver — 6 hours. But Mayhew says she doesn’t skip a trade and a crime. People don’t close their doors. Everyone knows everybody here.

While it’s substantially too early to call it a trend, what’s function in Valentine is partial of a broader informative materialisation in farming America. Young people who grew adult in tiny towns, and have been examination them onslaught from afar, are feeling this job to come home.

Take Valentine’s possess mayor, Kyle Arganbright. The 35-year-old motionless to pierce home a few years ago after connoisseur propagandize in Lincoln, Neb., and a army in Washington, D.C. He and a friend from high propagandize who also recently changed behind are dual of Bolo’s categorical investors.

Valentine’s Mayor Kyle Arganbright sees a new brewery as a matter to grow other artisanal businesses and a town’s traveller economy.

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Valentine’s Mayor Kyle Arganbright sees a new brewery as a matter to grow other artisanal businesses and a town’s traveller economy.

Kirk Siegler/NPR

“I usually suspicion there was a lot of event here,” Arganbright says.

Valentine was already doing a lot improved than a lot of removed towns a size. It is a heart for a stock business, selling and services. It is also a pull for tourists flocking to a scenic Sand Hills for bird-watching, sport and boating. Unemployment in Cherry County, where Valentine is located, is 2.3 percent, reduce than a inhabitant rate of 4.2 percent.

But a lot of those are distraction and jobs tend to be seasonal, and many other people in city reason down mixed jobs to get by.

For Arganbright, cultivation will always be a anchor in Valentine, though he sees a niche in a country’s flourishing artistic and workman economies.

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he says. “You can’t lay there stagnant, quite when all these civic populations are exploding.”

What It's Like To Live In A Small, Rural, Politically Divided Town

In fact, a thought of a qualification brewery as a indication for parochial revitalization is being tested opposite a Midwest, with some early successes: Carson, Iowa, and Ottawa, Ill., to name dual examples.

“I would hatred to over-promote this as a cure-all for each tiny town,” says Chris Merrett, executive of a Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.

But Merrett says it has intensity in places like Valentine that already have healthy amenities and attractions around them and don’t have to rest on a faithfulness of internal business only.

Bolo hasn’t been but a early stumbles. It can be tough to get reserve fast out here. Business also drops off when a tourists leave. And Hernstrom admits that a thought of a qualification brewery is still flattering new, if even strange, to some longtime locals.

“We’re a uncanny people that float bicycles around,” Hernstrom says. “And we’ve assured a lot of people to start roving their bicycles more.”

“Chris a Brewer,” as he’s famous around town, creates good drink too, that never hurts.

“I’d adore to one day be means to demeanour behind on this and map a expansion of Valentine,” Hernstrom says.

For now, Bolo is usually focused on employing a initial full-time employees, and there are skeleton to open a drink garden and presumably even supplement a kitchen soon.