Bootstrap Brewing, cowbells + consistency

The Niwot brewery on growing fast and staying true to its rock ‘n’ roll roots

By Marc Doherty Sep 25 2018

On the southside of Niwot Road, east of Diagonal Highway, lies a quaint, bustling shopping center that makes up the center of Boulder’s cozy northeast suburb Niwot.

“Cottonwood Square” is an eclectic composition of restaurants, florists, law offices and more. The storefronts are a mash-up of styles, colors and planter boxes dash in front of you and navigating the commercial area’s many nooks feels nonsensical.

Yet the vibe of Niwot’s hub beats clear — busy-bliss.

Bootstrap Brewing Company sits at the heart of all of this. Founded in 2012 by Steve and Leslie Kaczeus, the brewery brings kick-ass beer and rock ‘n’ roll music to Niwot — and beyond.

Leslie and Steve Kaczeus, Photo Credit: Philip Yates

Sampson keeps his hair

The never-not-grinning couple both quit jobs in Silicon Valley in 2008, beginning a five year saga towards opening a brewery. Fearing employment uncertainty and the prospect of cutting his long hair, Steve — a homebrewer of 20 years — enrolled in the American Brewer’s Guild.

Steve and Leslie continued to refine their arsenal of peer-approved recipes. They hosted blind-tastings, inviting family and friends to their basement to rank 10 tasters. One of Steve’s brews would be thrown in the mix of successful and experimental craft brews.

There were some failures, but when one of Steve’s IPA’s would consistently outrank a big time craft brew, the couple knew they had something good rolling.

They joined the Brewer’s Association as a brewery-in-planning, attending conferences, growing their network and finding out what it takes.

“Let’s see if it’s as cool as we think it is,” Leslie said of their thinking then.

Bootstrapped to booming

Steve and Leslie took a line of credit out on their home and this “bootstrap” operation began.

The Niwot taproom started with a three-barrel brewing system, which they bought from Eddyline Brewery out of Buena Vista. The brew tanks barely fit in the door of their original 1,200-square-foot space.

Receiving a keg order on their first day, they had to scramble to find a real keg to fill it. Bootstrap became the neighborhood brewery quicker than they could have imagined.

Local bands found a home on Bootstrap’s stage and neighboring restaurants began delivering food to the hungry taproom patrons. Bootstrap’s success was a win-win for the community, so long as the customer’s cleaned up their takeout boxes.

The brewery nearly doubled its annual production each of the next five years.

This development didn’t go unnoticed. The Coors Distributing Company brought on the self-distributing brewery in 2016, opening up markets from the mountains to the entire Denver metro area.

Posting 2,156 barrels in 2016, expansion maxed out at its Niwot facility. Bootstrap opened a new brewery in Longmont in March 2017.

Bootstrap keeps both locations fully operational — Niwot brews all non-canned beer, hosts R&D (including some sours and barrel-aged brews), while Longmont handles the bulk of production, the canned beer.

In 2017, Bootstrap also took on two new distributors, opening up sales in northern Colorado, southern Colorado and the western slope.

National investors have taken notice of Bootstrap’s boom in Colorado. This past June, the brewery created a partnership with New York-based InterContinental Beverage Capital, Inc. The firm will help provide capital and strategic input for Bootstrap’s facilities growing footprint.

For 2018, it projects producing 7,000 barrels, a 225 percent increase from 2016.

With both facilities operating, Bootstrap can produce up to 20,000 barrels and hopes to do so in the future. Leslie says, “smart growth is our goal.”

Just good

Leslie says much of their success comes from Bootstrap’s drinkability and consistency.

“If I don’t want to drink three pints back-to-back, we’re not going to make it,” Leslie says, as we share a glass of their new Lush Puppy, a hazy, citrus-forward IPA. Find it in the taproom now or look for cans this winter.

Bootstrap isn’t trying to be just an artisanal brewer, creating unique, handcrafted batches. They just want to make good, consistent beer to rock out to.

This past weekend, Bootstrap took home a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its 1956 Gold Ale. Its pale ale, Sticks, took home gold in 2016.

Can design

Bootstrap’s four current cans. Photo credit: Marc Doherty, BLDRfly

One of Bootstrap’s hallmarks is its can design. The brewery teamed up with renowned Boulder-based ad agency, Moxie Sozo, to design each of their four canned beers.

Leslie, Steve and the Moxie team sat down and let the name of each beer evoke its own wild, twisted scene.

The Insane Rush can features, well, rabbits in an insane rush, fleeing hungry snakes. The shades of blue on the can play with the flavor and mood the beer itself sets.

The matte finish is unforgettable to your hand.

Each can has a lot going on, but it isn’t too noisy. It sucks you in and slowly you piece together bits of a chaotic scene — more busy-bliss.

Cowbell’s are Bootstrap’s hidden motif. You can find one amongst the chaos on each can. Leslie says think Blue Oyster Cult.

Canning this winter, I wonder what a Lush Puppy will look like.


Marc Doherty

Marc is BLDRfly’s adventure reporter. When not hunting powder, Marc can be found exploring area trails, hanging out with his dog Chelsea and running Rio’s rooftop.