You could say beer is in Jim Gleason’s blood, but we are not talking about Blood Alcohol Content. It’s a matter of genetics, and the same can be said of his wife, Heidi. For four generations brewing beer and farming have been a way of life for their families. The roots run deep.

Walking through the doors of Stahoo’s Brewery and Taproom, the walls come to life through the faces of Jim and Heidi’s ancestors. Farmers, bartenders and brewery workers — they’re all enjoying beer.

“This is my uncle Jim, my great-uncle Hank and my great-uncle Frank,” Jim shared. “They’re tending bar at a family wedding in Michigan. A Polish wedding was a three-day celebration with a polka band, and countless kegs of beer. My uncles would tend bar, give sodas to us kids, and get to visit with every guest and keep things from getting out of hand.”

Jim pointed to different photos of grandfathers, uncles, great-uncles, cousins and more. He is Polish/Irish and Heidi is German/Norwegian — all cultures known for tipping a few back.

“This is a great-uncle who was a member of the National Union of Brewery Workers around 1912,” Jim said. “The Phoenix Brewery was one of three breweries in my hometown of Bay City, Michigan. They survived prohibition producing malt extract. You could take it home, add water and yeast and ferment it yourself. The Phoenix brewery was in business until the mid-1940s and my Grandpa Gleason drove a beer truck for them.”

Beer has flowed through the family tree for more than 100 years. “Our families grew grains, including wheat and barley. We come from a long line of farmers, brewers, truck drivers and even tavern owners.”

That love for celebrating and enjoying good beer has stuck with Jim throughout his life; so much so that he and Heidi decided to create their own brewery.

“We’ve been brewery fans for years,” Jim said. “When we travel, we go to breweries. The smaller the better. You get to meet the people with dirt under their nails. When we lived in Montana years ago, we became friends with brewers who lived there. We saw a growing craft beer community when we moved to Casper. Our goal is to be a personal, family-based brewery.”

According to Jim, the food industry is dominated by corporate giants and consolidation; local producers are always hit the hardest. The beer industry is no different, with the biggest players buying up smaller breweries. Although Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are big barley-producing states, most malted barley is shipped to a few big malting companies by rail, mixed together and then malted. Then it’s warehoused in regional distribution centers and sold to breweries.

“We do things differently,” Jim said. “We buy direct from family farmers who grow and malt their own grain. They can tell me which field a particular sack of grain came from, what the water source was, when they harvested it, and when it was malted. At Stahoo’s, that’s what we mean by local beer.”

Jim said that he and Heidi “celebrate the beauty of beer and brew classic styles and exciting new variations for everyone to enjoy.”

There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about Stahoo’s Brewery. However, an incredible amount of time, dedication, creativity and, most importantly, heart and soul go into every beer. That same dedication drives Jim and Heidi to greet every visitor with a smile and a warm welcome. And, if you ask, Jim is happy to let you in on the secrets of brewing.

“Water is so pivotal in making beer,” Jim educated. “You’ve got an endless number of mineral profiles and compositions. Beers across America and throughout the world owe their character to the places they are brewed because of their unique water. Casper water is challenging, but our water treatment system at Stahoo’s allows us to adjust the hardness and composition of our water to match the water profile for a particular style of beer that we want to brew.”

He continued, stating that “every brew day is like the opening day of hunting season. I prepare days in advance, mill my grain, select and measure my hops, prep my equipment. I double-check my numbers and calculations. Sometimes I can’t sleep or wake up before my alarm goes off. On those days, I’m here at 5:30 a.m.” 

Jim spent years perfecting his craft (heh.) at home. but it’s one thing to be a good home brewer; it’s a whole ‘nother world to turn that into a successful business. But that’s exactly what Jim is doing. And he wouldn’t be able to do so without the support and help of his wife. 

“It’s exciting,” Jim beamed (heh). ” I worked for 30 years in the nonprofit world. I ran different organizations and got to meet leading philanthropists from across the country. We settled in Casper five years ago, and I brought my brewing experience and my love of beer with me. We conceptualized opening a brewery and what that would look like. Heidi really encouraged me to do it. She was the driving force.”

That driving force was paramount to Jim moving forward with his dream. It was a dream they both shared and she offered her support in more ways than one.

“She’s dedicated.” Jim said. “Heidi and I did much of the re-model and installation. We bought the building in February of 2022, and opened in June. When I’m serving beer at a private event or at a Casper Spuds baseball game, she takes care of customers in the taproom. She works full-time as an occupational therapist and then comes here to work the taproom.”

Heidi isn’t the only family member working alongside Jim, either.

“Both of our boys work here.” Jim said. “They clean tanks, move hoses, help clean beer lines and do whatever else is needed. They’re learning the brewery business. It’s work- but its time spent together. It is a family thing.”

That “family thing” goes back decades.

“It’s named after my grandpa,” he revealed. “Stahoo is Polish for ‘Stanley.’ He made moonshine during prohibition. He was a butcher. He farmed. He worked at a General Motors Foundry. He loved beer and celebrating with family. He was the hardest working man I knew. He would get more done by 8 a.m. than most people would accomplish in an entire day. His parents were Polish immigrants. Working hard, farming, raising animals, providing for family and friend and celebrating life — that was his world. I think he’d be proud of Stahoo’s.”

Stahoo’s Brewery embodies faith, service and celebrating people. And it’s the people that are Jim’s favorite parts of the job.

“Stahoo’s is a close-knit and growing community. I’ve seen people become friends who might not otherwise cross paths in Casper. I’ve seen guys walk out to the parking lot to help fix another customer’s car. It’s humbling that our little brewery brings people together like that.”

Stahoo’s has 10 beers on tap, which is just the right amount for people who want to come in, pull up a stool and sit a spell. “You can taste whatever you’d like, and we’ll go from there.”

Stahoo’s is family-friendly and open Tuesday through Saturday. But, if you happen to drive by on a day they’re closed and Jim is working, there’s a good chance he’ll invite you in and pour you a beer. It happens like that. Jim loves sharing Stahoo’s story. He enjoys serving beer, talking beer and explaining the science behind each brew. More importantly, he loves finding you the beer that grabs you.

Smiling, Jim remembered, “I had one lady and her husband come on a Saturday. She told me she loved our Rose’s Honey Rye and thought about it all day on Sunday and Monday, but those are days we are closed. She made her husband bring her in when we opened on Tuesday. That blew me away.”

When Stahoo’s Brewery and Taproom opened in June 2022, it did so with one goal: to offer something for everyone and to be a place for anyone.

“Casper is a diverse, growing community and we want Stahoo’s to be known as the friendliest, most inviting brewery people will ever experience.”

“Witamy,” Jim said. It means “Welcome” in Polish.

Stahoo’s Brewery and Taproom serves delicious craft beer Tuesday–Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit their website or check out their Facebook page.

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