Dale Katechis met Steve and Leslie Kaczeus about a decade ago, on a baseball field in the town of Niwot, where both of their sons were playing in a game. Katechis owned a small but quickly growing craft brewery in Longmont called Oskar Blues. Steve, a mechanical engineer, and Leslie both worked in high tech.
Steve, an avid home brewer, loved talking beer, and harbored his own dreams of opening a brewery. So when he told Katechis in 2011 that he and Leslie were planning to open their own taproom, Bootstrap Brewing, in Oskar Blues’s back yard, he was worried that things would be awkward.
Instead, “He said it was awesome,” Leslie remembers. “He said, ‘If you need any help, let me know.’ And he has been a great mentor for us ever since.”
This week, the Kaczeuses announced that Katechis, who owns the Longmont building where Bootstrap is now located, will join Bootstrap as an investor and advisor. The couple has also added their first full-time sales director in Geoff Hess, who formerly served in a major regional sales role for Oskar Blues and its parent company, the Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective.
“This came about in a way that is not unlike a lot of other relationships in the beer world, in that there is camaraderie in this space. It's what drew a lot of us to this industry in the first place,” Katechis says, adding that he likes everything about Bootstrap, right down to the name of the company.
“They check two boxes for me,” he continues. “Steve is making great beers; there is nothing to fix there. The quality and attention to detail are great. That is why I kept going back there. The most important box, though, is that they are genuine, authentic people that don’t have egos that need to be catered to. It reminds me of back in the day at Oskar Blues. You had to check your ego at your door back then. I won't have to fight those battles working with them. Egos can be showstoppers.”
The terms of Katechis’s investment were not disclosed, but he says the Kaczeuses are still the majority owners and that he has no intention of taking over anything. In addition, the investment is wholly personal and has nothing to do with Canarchy, which owns six craft breweries across the country.
For Bootstrap, which is already on track to grow its barrel volume by 41 percent in 2020, the investment means they will be able to keep the beer’s quality and consistency intact while adding new accounts around Colorado — and probably out of state.
Leslie says the brewery recently bought three ninety-barrel fermenters, which increased capacity by 50 percent. It also invested in other specialty equipment. (Bootstrap, which opened in 2012 in Niwot, moved to Longmont in 2017; the company closed its Niwot taproom earlier this year.)
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"He sees so much potential in us," Leslie says. "We have always bootstrapped it. We started the company with our own resources and have had to continuously reinvest in our own equipment. So it's nice, and even refreshing, to have some help now, especially on the sales side.
"Having been part of building a larger brewery, it takes you back to the early days," Katechis says. "I'm enjoying nothing more than sharing my mistakes with them. That is where my value-add comes in. They have product and spirit and internal culture that is scalable at whatever size they decide to grow."
In particular, he thinks their flagship IPA, Insane Rush, has enormous potential to grow.
The Kaczeuses' son, the one who played baseball with Dale's son a decade ago, now works at the brewery. "I love that dynamic," Katechis says. "They're not trying to take over the world, but it's more fun when you're winning."