She had the Hop Notion; we had the Aviator Raspberry Blonde. Hey, it's all in the line of duty. What would you expect? This is Boise Weekly's just-launched yearly Beer Issue, so we naturally wanted to sit down with Stacy Connelly, queen of Boise Beer Buddies, to talk about her Idaho roots, her unique network of beer lovers and--over a couple of cold ones at Crooked Fence Brewing's Barrelhouse Brewpub--Boise's overflowing love for breweries.
Are you an Idaho native?
I was born in San Francisco, but my father passed away when I was 6 and we moved to Fruitland when I was 9 because my mom was originally from Idaho. I have six brothers and sisters, plus three more step-siblings and I'm somewhere in the middle.
What was the big dream for you?
I can tell you that it was definitely not beer. I was a goody two-shoes and I didn't have my first drink until well after high school. I was terribly shy.
And what does your resume look like?
I was a traveling salesperson for a year, where a team of us traveled all across the country selling cleaning solution. They would put us up in dive motels, and then they would drop us off each day to sell the cleaner door-to-door. It was 100 percent commission. I was 19, and even though I saw good part of the U.S., I was ready to come home after a few months.
But most of your career has been in finance.
It has. But I should tell you about my work in a tuxedo rental store over in Ontario, Ore., where I worked on-and-off for six years. I was pretty shy back then.
Sorry, but I don't see you ever being shy.
I know; but I was terrified. If you walked into that store, I would wait for customers to walk all the way up to me behind the counter, before I whispered, "Hello." But the owner, who was very outgoing, helped a lot with that. And the dating pool in Ontario wasn't very big, so I ended up going to a lot of wedding receptions.
But you've worked a few other places.
Sure. I worked at Micron, in a fabricating lab, where I had no idea what I was doing. I worked for Albertsons, in finance, which I loved. But most of my professional years have been in banking. I walked into First Security Bank in 1992 [which became Wells Fargo Bank in 2001] and stayed with them until 2008. I worked in new accounts and private banking and it was an amazing chapter of my life. I also worked, for a short while, for Western Capital and Syringa banks.
So, help me out with how the social or cultural aspect of beer has become such a big part of your life.
All of my banking colleagues would turn to me each week and ask, "What's going on in town this weekend?" So, 10 years ago I began sending out emails to just a few friends about Alive After Five, concerts at the Botanical Garden, the racetrack, the Sesqui-Shop, you name it. Over the years, my email list would get a little bit bigger. About a year ago, I started calling my email list Boise Beer Buddies.
But that was only your close circle of friends.
But it kept growing. And now I limit it to beer events, but it's bigger than ever.
At what point did a light bulb go off and tell you that there was a business with this?
Only in the last month. But it's more than a business; it's all about the craft beer community and the buy-local movement. And we're not talking about run-of-the-mill bars. Take a look at the recent ribbon cutting at Boise Brewing. Mayor Bieter and [Boise Metro Chamber President] Bill Connors were there.
Meanwhile, the growing number of Boise brewers is pretty crazy now.
I think there are 14 breweries in the immediate Treasure Valley. More in McCall, more in Southeastern Idaho.
Do you think that's too many?
No, there a lot of people being converted to craft beer. You can put a different label on Coors Light, but it's still bleh [see our Feature Story in this week's issue]. I like starting people with samples of craft beers, and they almost always like them.
It's interesting that you said, "I like starting people..." I'm guessing that people ask you for suggestions all the time.
I always ask them what they prefer first.
Give me a few recommendations that you really like.
Dagger Falls from Sockeye Brewing and Outlaw from Payette Brewing. They're both pretty hoppy.
I know a lot of people who don't like IPA's. How about something lighter?
North Fork Lager from Payette Brewing is great.
And how has this evolved into more of a business?
A Beer Buddy membership. You're more likely to whip out $20 after you've had a couple of beers, knowing that you'll have discounts from that point forward.
What kind of discounts are we talking about?
At one location, you'll get 10 percent off your whole tab. Another place will knock $1 off a pint. At another spot, you'll buy one pint and get another free.
And your newsletter?
It's weekly now. Honestly, it comes out on Thursdays, because Boise Weekly comes out on Wednesdays and I like to include the coming weekend and the next weekend's tasting events.
Thanks for the plug.