Entrepreneurial itch drives buddies to open Scratchtown Brewing
Scratchtown Brewing Company of Ord, Neb., is proving that what we drink is just as important as what we eat.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, our American palates are changing. Although the unwavering staple of meat and potatoes is not in jeopardy, the influence of world cuisine is introducing flavors and spices into our mainstream diet, continuing to elevate our culinary senses. With all that delicious food, we need something special to serve by its side. As a result, the demand for quality in what we drink has created bespoke industries for beer and wine.
The story of Scratchtown Brewing began like many other craft beer endeavors: it all started with a garage, a few buddies and a weekend hobby. Three friends — Jade Stunkle, Mike Klimek and Caleb Pollard — who found a mutual interest in community and camaraderie, often met over freshly brewed beer to discuss matters, both rural and beyond. It was during their regular gatherings that one particular subject always stood out. The quality of Klimek’s unique homemade brews. The beer was so good Pollard began contemplating a change in careers.
After several months of planning and structuring, a concept surfaced that would eventually become a local craft brewery. As they secured a commercial lot upon the downtown square and began experimenting with beer recipes guaranteed to appeal to locals, they also settled upon a name rooted in the history of the North Loup River Valley. Legend has it that the town’s namesake, US General EOC Ord, bestowed the name “Scratchtown” upon what is current day Ord in reference to the biting flies and mosquitoes that harassed his surveying crew.
It was fitting that these three friends looked to history for a name because it turns out they were going to make history as well.
Layers of complexity
The business of beer seems like an easy sell, but the logistics of starting a new concept of any degree in a rural setting often adds layers of complexity.
What the skeptics didn’t realize was that these entrepreneurs had something solid to stand upon — really good beer. They kept their ingredients simple and honest – water, malt, hops and yeast – and got as many people as possible to try it. The proof was in the pint.
“We didn’t need to hire a marketing team,” Pollard said. “We know who we are and just because we have a rural brewery doesn’t mean we are inferior to the competition.”
In order to keep their concept on their own terms, the guys behind Scratchtown Brewing opted to forgo the idea of grants and economic development assistance and opened their business to financial backers. They formed the Founder’s Club, a one-time type of crowd funding to offer a special membership in exchange for an initial investment. Those who first believed in the vision of craft beer being made in the Sandhills of Nebraska, 127 people from San Francisco to Virginia, have their names forever highlighted on a wall in the tap room.
Ord nightlife reacts
Shortly after their local brewery opened for business, it wasn’t just investors lining up for some well-crafted beer. Customers were driving from more than 150 miles away to check out Scratchtown Brewing’s latest IPAs, stouts and lagers. Most importantly, the locals were responding to the new concept of beer being produced in their own town. As the three owners and their spouses tended the tap, they took it as an opportunity to not only promote their beer but educate interested minds as well. Suddenly, the talk of Ord nightlife turned from, “What kind of light beer do you have?” to “Did you notice the citrus hop notes in the Hot Iron American Wheat Ale?”
When people find a common interest, they feel compelled to congregate. And that’s exactly what the guys at Scratchtown Brewing wanted to happen. They even named their wifi network “Put Down Your Phone and Pick Up a Beer” in hopes that their craft brews will generate conversation and connect people in the community.
The hard work is paying off
The tap room’s sales are up by more than double since last year and a month ago they partnered with a Nebraska distributor so their bottled beer is now available in stores throughout Lincoln and Omaha, with other towns quick to follow. While Stunkle and Pollard hit up social media to spread the word, Klimek, now bestowed the title of head brewer, is gathering recognition for his beers at state and national competitions. The story of Scratchtown Brewing is becoming as interesting as the flavor profile of one of their uniquely crafted brews.
Things have never tasted better in this part of the country.
Who to Contact
Scratchtown Brewing Company
141 S 16th St
Ord NE 68862