Shine Beer Sanctuary + Bottle Shop
by Angie Ripple | Saturday Aug. 1st, 2020
What used to be an old gas station at the corner of Main and Church Streets in downtown Bozeman is now a sanctuary and one-stop shop for those who love beer and some of Bozeman’s best comfort food. Shine Beer Sanctuary + Bottle Shop brings The Garage’s Soup Shack, La Parilla, and a large selection of carefully curated beer under one roof. Co-owners Pete Strom, Lindsey Gabrian-Craigle, and Travis and Julie Collins came together to inject a sense of light and creativity into Bozeman’s social experiences. That and so much more is what you will find at Shine Beer Sanctuary. Pete sat with me in the large lounge at the back of the main floor where handmade light fixtures shone on us to answer our food scene questions.
Angie Ripple: How was Shine conceptualized?
Pete Strom: Shine has been a project in the making for close to five years. The beer and bottle shop concept was really the brainchild of Travis and Julie Collins; they had been trying to find the right combination of being able to get the right license, the right location, and the right supporting food concept that would make the whole thing work. So, when Travis and I met in 2018, he was just kicking the idea around with me and I was trying to find ways to connect him to people that might be able to have the right license and so on, but at the same time I was feeling like it was time to do something new with this location, and had been trying to figure that out for several years. For me, that came down to what’s not already being done? And then how do we preserve the best of what’s here, and that included the best of the Garage, the Soup Shack, LaParilla, this location, and make this location an enhancement to the community without destroying the character of what was here. The challenge of this location, with the old gas station and what was here, it’s kind of limited from an outside developer's perspective. They would say it’s certainly not highest best use. Look at all these other three- to five-story buildings going up, and we asked the question: "How do we preserve what is here and still innovate while maintaining the character and really providing new value?"
So, Travis and Julie and I met, and where we really jelled was on our core values and our sense of purpose, and that boils down to building vibrant relationships and growing people. Those are the two things that matter to us, and I would say there are lots of ways to do that. We saw an opportunity to do that through the curation of great outstanding experiences basically through the vehicles of great food, outstanding beer, and enlightened hospitality. When we talk about growing people, we think about the culture that we want to have, the place that we want to work in, the place that we want to provide for the staff that participate and choose to serve the community in this way, and I think our excitement about that is what made us most excited, and we feel like if we start there, then the creativity and the concept and the fun that we can have with providing a new type of hospitality here--that sort of takes care of itself.
I would say the heart of Shine really came from Travis and Julie with the beer and bottle shop concept and obviously LaParilla has been around a long time, developed by Zach Anderson and myself. What it looks like in this iteration, in this space, with this service model has been just what's emerged out of our partnership.
AR: What do you mean by enlightened hospitality?
PS: I think the phrase was coined by Danny Myers, and we kinda use the two terms athletic hospitality and enlightened hospitality together. Those are the two ways that we like to think about it as a staff and as a team. The athletic part is we want to be ready for everything, that there’s a quality of anticipation, and how do we solve problems for people, how do we give people the experience of a big hug? And, enlightened hospitality for me, one, it’s a play off the name Shine. We like playing off the theme of light, with our light fixtures, and we want to shine a light on people who are doing the best work, brewing the best beers, making amazing food, supporting the community in interesting ways, and enlightened in the spiritual sense of understanding unity. Community and healthy community comes out of our understanding of our interrelatedness and our interdependence and our interconnection, and an enlightened hospitality understands that what I do for you I really do for myself, that on some level we are all one thing. So that understanding, I would say is the deep layer under using that terminology. I don’t think that’s necessarily what Danny Myers meant, but that’s how we take it and it fits for us thematically with name and the idea behind the name of the restaurant.
AR: What makes Shine unique in the Bozeman food scene?
PS: So, LaPa has been around since 1997, and what’s unique about that element of our kitchen is everything is scratch-made, the numbers of choices is almost laughed at by other restaurateurs trying to do a similar concept because it’s a very complex menu, and we spend all morning prepping meats and marinades and sauces and dressings and all the different types of salsas. It’s a fairly complex menu for what, on the surface, appears like a gourmet casual counter service experience. There is a lot of focus on the quality, from the quality of the soups which the Soup Shack has always been known for, to all the preparation that goes into our food combinations and our recipes, but what makes it unique is we have that high level of quality but we can assemble it in front of you in anywhere from 60-120 seconds fully customized to whatever you want. If you’re a food adventurer, you can come in one day and have a basic taco and another day have the Blackwater Bayou with fried Catfish and malt vinegar and Pepperon cheese and the next day have something with Green Curry and bamboo shoot and purple cabbage, so it’s a wide range and if you’re inclined to get bored with food, it’s hard to do that here. And I would say that the second thing that’s unique about it is the ease in which it can be enjoyed here, and it’s also a great to-go food. LaParilla has been around forever and it,’s always been a favorite of people going out backpacking, or hiking, or mountain biking, or whatever it happens to be; it’s a very portable food and we’ve always focused on a strong value proposition, they’re sizable, they’re hearty, you’re not going to go hungry.
Our uniques are our historic location, our patios, the curation of our beers, and that passion for exploration and educating people about beer and beer making, the bottle shop, people are still learning that it’s there and it’s variety and very competitively priced. Another unique about the whole things is that our service model is choose your own adventure. If you want to be in and out in 5-10 minutes you can be in and out in 5-10 minutes, if you want to come in and shop for beer you can do that, if you want to come in and grab a beer first and head out then you run into some friends and decide to sit down and eat, you can. If you’re hungry, you can grab food, if you want a beer experience we have beer, you’ve got more of a beer hall downstairs and more of an intimate bar upstairs. We’ve got a backroom lounge.
AR: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
PS: First and foremost, that they feel welcome and appreciated. Secondly, that they’re delighted and feel like they belong, to the point of wanting to share that experience with somebody else. Third, that they experience the never-ending opportunity to try something new.
We rotate beers. Generally, we don’t have more than two kegs of anything before that line turns over so, thirty kegs on tap almost every day there are three to six new beers that go on. We want people to have the experience of coming in to taste things, and try things, and that they have an experience of education and learning that they experience the degree in which the effort that has gone into curating the exact mix of things that we have here. The thoughtfulness that Travis puts into what’s on tap and what’s coming up next and how that relates to everything that’s in the bottle shop and how you can taste something on tap and then be able to take a growler or crowler home, or go back to the bottle shop and buy it in different forms.
And also understanding the level of training of our staff. Everyone on our bar or bottle shop staff is at least level one cicerone trained, so they really know their stuff about beer and are truly passionate about it. So we want people to feel like there’s an opportunity to learn and also have the experience that we will meet you exactly where you are at.
AR: What item do your regulars keep coming back for?
PS: Ahh, beer. [chuckles]
AR: Do you serve mostly local and regional beers or is it a wider variety than that?
PS: It’s everything. We work with the best of the best in local breweries, and we really celebrate the regional and local brewers who are doing amazing work, and we go out and try to find the best of the best everywhere. That’s our thing, to curate the best out there. Sometimes we are going far afield to find something and bring it in, but again we’re moving through things and there is always a nice mix between local, regional and far afield.
Going back to your question about a favorite, I would say I think people’s favorite is the opportunity to try something new. From a beer or wine standpoint, it’s not that there is one thing that they are coming in for, but what’s the latest most interesting thing from MAP, or from Bozone, or from Outlaw, what have they brought in? We came across this amazing brewery in Portland say, and of that we pick two of their best things to bring in and try. I think that opportunity to try new stuff and have it contextualized so it’s not just like, "Here’s some beer," it’s like, "Here’s this beer, and here’s how it was made; it was aged in whiskey barrels for X amount of time to get this flavor.” Not everyone wants that depth, so our trick is to meet people where they’re at.
As far a LaPa items, The Wrap of Khan is a classic, and Blackwater Bayou is still a huge favorite. It’s so hard to say, but obviously we have our soups that are the classic Garage soups: Green Chili Verde, --Clam Chowder, and Tomato Basil, and Granny’s Chicken.
AR: How has Shine pivoted during the COVID-19 crisis?
PS: There have kind of been multiple stages of it; it’s hard to assess the value or quality of these decisions because we’re still in it. It may be a more interesting question a year or two from now, hopefully, our business is still here. Our first pivot was to try to be as direct and straight with our staff about what we know and what we don’t know, what we’re going to do to take care of them, and what we’re going to do to keep the business sustainable through all of this. And we’re still figuring that out.
I feel incredibly fortunate. We are positioned better than a lot by no wisdom or insight on our part; we just happen to be lucky. We’re lucky we have a very large open-space floor plan that even in the winter time has a lot more space for physical distance than most restaurants would. We’re lucky with that most of our space's walls open up to the outside, so there’s great airflow, and then we have two large spacious patios that in addition to enjoying the outside, in relationship to COVID, it seems to be much safer for all of us. That again is really just luck, which is nice in the summer, but even in the winter our interior is going to be more suitable than some. I can’t imagine what it’s like for some, a restaurant that is trying to keep an appropriate physical distance that has a standard type restaurant table set up. Restaurants are just not designed to work on a 50-75% capacity, so I’m really hoping that we can figure out ways as a community, figure out ways in the industry, to really support our local restaurateurs who add so much to the quality of life and the culture of this town.
As far as the pivots, we adjusted to doing take-out and delivery particularly early on. Now that we’re more in an open setting and now that we have the face mask mandate, we’re more confident in keeping our staff and guests as safe as we can and still keep Montana open and keep the economy open. We’ve got a lot of simple physical barriers, hand washing stations, hopefully, helpful messaging, and even ways for people to make payment with minimized risk. And hopefully [we can] still maintain the often times under valued or under appreciated need that we all have to connect with other humans. Our goal continues to be how do we, even in the midst of these challenges, build and support vibrant relationships.
We did a virtual beer hall online on Zoom and that provided some interesting opportunities to bring in some amazing talent from around the country. We had breakout rooms and presentations, and we plan to do more of those this fall.
AR: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Bozeman community?
PS: I think for me personally, it’s still a size where I feel like I regularly run into people that I know. There is a strong appreciation of place, appreciation of nature. I think it’s a well educated population that really has outsized opportunities for its population because of the University. To me it’s the best of both worlds. You get the benefits of bigger places culturally, and the benefits of smaller places from a population base. And, I think the biggest thing is the other people in this community who build businesses and are generous towards things that generate value beyond just themselves, or even their lifetimes. They are building for a future that’s bigger than them, and I feel like Bozeman has a lot of people like that and we’re all enjoying the fruits of their labors, the labors of previous generations who have been that way, as well as labors of people who regularly do that now.
AR: Do you have anything coming up that you would like the readers to know about?
PS: The Virtual Beer Hall Lecture Series, we have some pretty cool ideas around that, and I’m excited about it. We’ve been doing some things with Beer Maven, and some art classes and things like that, which I’m sure we’ll be doing more of.
Put Shine Beer Sanctuary + Bottle Shop at 451 E. Main Street in Bozeman on your go-to list this August, catch some rays on either patio and let them dazzle you with their hospitality, beer curation, and light.