In life, we are often told not to press our luck. Afterall, if you’re on top, why risk tumbling to the bottom? But then there are people like Shane Cook, owner of Koto Brewing in Twin Falls, Idaho, who aren’t content with playing it safe. In fact, Shane doubled down on the success of his local sandwich shop and opted to try his hand at brewing beer.
The City of Twin Falls is glad he did.
The History of Koto: From Classy to Community
“About five or six years ago, me and my best friend Pierre, our head brewer, were talking about how there wasn’t really a craft brewery in Twin,” said Shane. “The more we talked about it, the more we saw a need for it here. We bought a small brewing system and practiced for a couple of years to get our recipes right, then we started the process of opening Koto.”
The name Koto Brewing pays homage to its home in the Koto Building on Main Street. Built adjacent to the Orpheum Theater in 1920, today’s brewery was originally home to Tom’s Café, owned by Tojiro and Kai Koto who immigrated to the United States in 1908 from Fukuoka, Japan.
In the early 1900s, Japanese immigrants were ineligible for citizenship and therefore couldn’t own property. Tapping into their entrepreneurial creativity, Tojiro and Kai registered the property under their son Tom, a citizen by birth, although he was only a toddler at the time.
Tom’s Café was an upper-class restaurant with crisp white tablecloths and sophisticated chinaware. Although Shane kept the name and the original brick and hardwood, the atmosphere at Koto Brewing is a far cry from what a patron of Tom’s would expect.
“We’re a pub brewery,” said Shane. “We make a variety of beer here and have an amazing dining room and kitchen where we make everything from scratch.”
How Koto Keeps It Local
Shane’s focus on incorporating local elements into his brewery go beyond maintaining the integrity of a historic building. From local hops and grains, to ingredients in the kitchen, to benches made out of repurposed timber, using products from the Magic Valley and partnering with nearby companies is top of mind at Koto.
“Even when we were building we tried to keep everything local,” said Shane. “Now, all those people come back and it gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the company when they see what they helped us accomplish.”
Bits of locally-curated flair also serve as conversation points throughout the brewery. For example, tables and counters made from the hardwood that once covered the floor of the Twin Falls High School gym bring back memories for patrons enjoying beers and bites.
“The athletic director let us take the hardwood instead of it all going to scrap,” said Shane. “You can even see the basketball court lines on the counters. It’s great to hear people come in and sit at those tables and start telling stories about when they were in high school.”
While Shane has succeeded in creating a welcoming place for lawyers, blue collar workers, city council members and tourists to gather and share ideas, he’s also helped keep natives here by offering diverse employment opportunities.
“It’s been amazing to have a place where local chefs, brewers and cooks can stay in Twin Falls and fulfill their passion,” said Shane.
Considering his dedication to the past, present and future of Twin Falls, it’s surprising to learn that Shane is originally from Salt Lake City. But there’s a reason he’s planted his small business roots in Idaho.
“I would have never opened my own place in Salt Lake because I never got the same sense of the community there,” said Shane. “People are proud to support the businesses here. They care about us and we care about the community that supports us. We pour our hearts into the beer we make and we even put $10 of every barrel back into the community.”
It’s plain to see, whether you’re slugging back a hazy Tablebase IPA or giving the Korean broccoli tacos a try, Koto Brewing has a little bit of local in every drop.