Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate Bring Iowa Project Brewing Company to the Spencer Community
When two guys who love craft beer have been friends long enough, it’s only a matter of time before this bold idea pops into their heads:
We should open a brewery together!
If that’s the goal, then Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate are living the dream. Together, they created The Iowa Project Brewing Company, a microbrewery and taproom in the heart of downtown Spencer, where you’ll find a variety of craft beers.
The brewery officially opened in June 2020 — just a few months after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. But that didn’t stop them from hitting the ground running. They have renovated a 120-year-old building and turned it into a place not only for beer but for the community to come together.
“We could not have chosen a worse time to open a small business,” Lucas joked. “But I think it’s going to be a badge of honor to say that we opened in the pandemic, we survived the pandemic, and we thrived during the pandemic.”
So far, they’ve hosted community bike rides, football watch parties and beer release events and have participated in Spencer Main Street’s Crazy Days. The name of their business is even rooted in their desire to be an ongoing, ever-evolving project for the community.
“We want to serve the community in a project fashion,” Nick said. “Whether that’s working with the kids in town or sponsoring sports teams, we want to be able to improve our community.”
The community approach to the Iowa Project Brewing Company has brought a wide variety of visitors since they’ve opened, ranging from a baby’s first trip out of the house all the way to a grandmother’s birthday party.
But the dream didn’t happen overnight. It’s been about 10 years in the making.
Taking a Hobby to New Heights
Lucas and Nick have been friends since they were in high school in the Kansas City area. As they got older and their friendship progressed, they slowly gravitated towards drinking craft beer. After college, Lucas moved to northwest Iowa while Nick stayed in Kansas City and started getting into homebrewing.
“When I heard that he was doing that, I told him that if he ever decided to start a brewery, I’d love to be a part of it,” Lucas said.
Sure enough, Nick’s homebrewing hobby led to a job at a brewery in the Kansas City area where he was able to get more involved in the craft beer industry. During that time he’d bring samples of his beer to Spencer for Lucas and his other friends to try.
“We all agreed,” Lucas began. “His beer was good, and he needed to think about starting a brewery up here.”
In October 2019, Nick finally pulled the trigger and moved to Spencer with his wife to start building connections in the community.
The beers Nick creates are inspired by his experience with homebrewing and working at other breweries, and also by his roots. The beers in their “EndEver” series represent their continuous journey to create the perfect beer within the style of New England IPA. Their “Southern Hospitality” series is reflective of desserts you might find in the south, and features fruit sour-style beers.
“The idea is that we find balance with our beers and create things that are familiar and enjoyable for people,” Nick said. “Everything has been well-received in general. The EndEver series definitely has its niche, but the Southern Hospitality series is our most popular.”
It Takes a Village
The community connections Lucas and Nick made were the key to getting their business off the ground. Right off the bat they were able to get some help from Siouxland Economic Development, who had someone who worked with them on the logistics of starting a small business in the area.
“We presented our business plan, and he would try to poke holes in it to make sure we had responses for any scenario,” Lucas said. “He helped us go through everything to make sure we were prepared for anything. He said, ‘If you have responses for all of these scenarios, that means you guys did your homework.’”
The Spencer Main Street organization has helped them promote the brewery, and a partnership with El Tapatio Mexican restaurant has made it easy for customers to have food delivered.
Community connections have been instrumental in the early success of the Iowa Project Brewing Company, but when it came to financing the business, one connection stood out among the rest.
Starting Off Right With Northwest Bank
Nick and Lucas got off to a good start by securing $50,000 in funding from Spencer’s Retail Kickstarter program and another $15,000 from a crowdfunding campaign, but they still had a long way to go. They needed one more connection to make this dream a reality. Through Lucas’s involvement with the Spencer Jaycees, he met Paul Daniels, a commercial banker at Northwest Bank.
Daniels was able to help them with a traditional commercial loan but was also able to help them find lower-interest financing from additional sources, including Siouxland Economic Development.
“It would have been easier for us to just get all of our loans through Paul, but he actually went the extra mile to help us get those other loans, which are going to save us more money down the road,” Lucas said.
At Northwest Bank, the support our commercial bankers provide doesn’t stop at securing financing. We are truly all in on supporting the small businesses in the communities we serve, and that’s why Paul and other Northwest Bank employees make frequent trips to the Iowa Project Brewing Company with their families.
We want your small business to be successful no matter what. We can help you find grants and special financing to help you achieve your dreams and save money in the process. To learn how we can help you, meet one of our commercial bankers to get started today.
Small Business Financing for the Next Step
You’ve worked hard to build your business. Now make sure it continues to thrive. Local businesses are vital to the community, which is why helping yours grow is our priority.
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