POCATELLO — Two new Main Street microbreweries — one that’s still under construction and another that recently brewed its first batch of beer — are scheduled to participate in the upcoming Gate City Brewfest.
Star Route Brewery will be located in the former Purple Moon location at 218 N. Main St. The owner and brewmaster, Chris White, said the seating area should be mostly finished in time for Brewfest, scheduled for 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in Old Town Pocatello.
During Brewfest, White’s future microbrewery will serve beverages from Salt Lake City-based Shades Brewing, but White will be on hand to answer questions about his business plans.
Off the Rails Brewing, 228 S. Main St., is now fermenting its first batch of beer — a blonde ale — and plans to start pouring its own craft products in about three weeks. Off the Rails is already serving a full food menu and has a host of outside beers on tap.
The first Off the Rails beers won’t be ready in time for Brewfest. Instead, Off the Rails will be hosting Wildlife Brewing, based in Victor, and Snow Eagle Brewing & Grill, based in Idaho Falls.
Off the Rails opened on Jan. 31.
“It’s gone really, really well. We’ve had awesome support,” said Hunter Rodriguez, co-owner and manager of Off the Rails.
Rodriguez expects to sell a lot of food during Brewfest and intends to offer food specials. By the month’s end, he anticipates Off the Rails will have three of its own beers on tap.
White’s business will represent Pocatello’s fourth microbrewery when it opens — in addition to Off the Rails, Jim Dandy Brewing and Portneuf Valley Brewing. He’s aiming for an opening date before the start of summer.
Rodriguez welcomes the additional competition to the block.
“I think it’s awesome, absolutely awesome,” Rodriguez said. “Pocatello needs a couple of breweries for sure.”
White, 49, and his wife, Gretchen, both work as engineers for ON Semiconductor. White plans to keep his job at ON and brew beer on Saturday mornings.
He and his family moved to Pocatello 15 years ago. He moved to Colorado to work for Broadcom Inc. from 2014 through 2017. His wife and child remained in Pocatello, and he traveled to Pocatello on weekends to visit them, until he was rehired at ON.
While living in Colorado, he took up home brewing in his garage.
“I just have fun brewing. When I was in Colorado, I brewed a lot, and the guys I gave the beer away to liked it,” White said, adding he decided to try brewing on a larger scale.
He’s renting space from the owners of Hot Hair. He hopes to bring food trucks to his site initially, before potentially opening a small barbecue restaurant in his brewery space, or subleasing space to another food provider.
“I’ve owned a small (stained concrete) business in the past but nothing in food service,” White said. “I’m going to have to hire people with experience.”
White plans to also offer beverages from outside breweries, and he plans to differentiate himself by specializing in beer recipes intended to appeal to women. For example, he plans to serve a coffee porter and is in the process of perfecting a vanilla cream ale. He also bought a fermenter for possible cider production in the future.
“I’m trying to get beers that are less guy beers and more along the lines of what women like,” said White, who has purchased a three-barrel brewing system. “I want to be able to go out and tell girls, ‘We’ve got a beer for you, too.’”
White believes the Old Town Pocatello social scene and night life is coming of age. Lately, he’s found it’s hard to find a parking spot in Old Town on a weekend evening.
“I’m hoping we (breweries) all work together,” White said.
Stephanie Palagi, executive director of Old Town Pocatello, believes the new microbreweries are just the latest example of a downtown vibe that’s been years in the making coming to fruition.
“It’s happening and it’s so exciting,” Palagi said. “The craft beer and the breweries are a part of it, but there’s so much more happening down here.”
The Brewfest, in it’s 10th year, provides an opportunity for Old Town Pocatello to highlight that progress to about 2,000 participants, who will visit several Old Town businesses and sample 80 different beverages from 34 breweries.
Tickets for this year’s “Cheers to 10 Years Celebration” are $25 in advance at gatecitybrewfest.com or $30 on the day of the event. VIP tickets are on sale for $65.
The event is a fundraiser for both Old Town Pocatello and the Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce.