Story and Photo by Nicole Christensen Pettinger
Boldness in action comes to mind when I think of each encounter I’ve had with Kelly Knopp. His jovial attitude and matching intensity makes for an interesting concoction; just like his 40+ artistic labels of Crooked Fence brews, which he astoundingly creates within an hour. His life approach, leadership, and vision leave you in a wake of inspiration.
Over my time with Kelly, he’s shown himself time and time again to have that special quality not many possess; he is clearly a person of great stature and significance. I have learned in my experience that a true leader is one that inspires others, brings and affirms others alongside their cause, and imparts passion to all that they touch. A true leader will always default to the “we, our” mentality. A true leader understands that while they are the visionary, it takes many to move the vision into reality. Kelly Knopp is one such true leader.
“When I was first approached by my friend Kris with the idea to open a brewery, and that I develop label and beer logos due to my past experience with marketing, I agreed under the ideal that I would work for six months free, and then I would gain an initial 10% of company and have a full-time position,” Kelly told me. I asked Kelly if he foresaw doing this with his life, and his response was an emphatic no. “I have become a beer person after educating myself and loving it. I had no prior respect or knowledge.”
“I am quite the introvert, I don’t like looking over my shoulder. I am a self-taught artist. I was a slacker after High School. I love the creativity this job allows me. My inspiration is edgier than most designs around.”
“My ten year vision is one where Crooked Flats becomes a wanted destination, a place where you can go and enjoy yourself from the day into the evening. The focus here is art, music, and comfort. I think we will be shifting from so many weddings into more community events,” he tells me. Jumping just a few crooked fences and farms, a little ways west of Eagle, you will find Crooked Flats off of Highway 16.
Kris Price, Travis Krawl, and Kelly Knopp are the owners of this enterprise, which is growing at an astounding rate. The establishments of Crooked Fence Brewing, BarrelHouse, and Crooked Flats are jewels in our community. Within just two years of growth, they have grown from output of 1,100 barrels initially to 4,500 barrels today, served in over 90 restaurants statewide.
One thing I respect about Kelly is that he and his partners started on a dime budget. His workspace is dressed in whimsical furniture picked up from Craigslist, including a retro leather couch and chairs created from unused barrels, a grandmother’s hutch for a bar, and hodgepodge thriftstore finds, which combine to create a nostalgic character.
“We built or designed it here,” Kelly responds, as I comment on how much I love the taps, which are vintage tools, pipes, and odds and ends.
“We still use the old-world method, turning by hand with a giant wooden paddle for 45 minutes. Our dedicated brewmasters are Adam Dahl and Aaron Haws.”
Kelly’s tenacious spirit shines in the labels he has created as well.
“Each has a personal attachment. The Bitter Prophet was designed after an argument with my father-in-law, who is a preacher. We laugh about it now. My subject matter is interesting as well as the colors I chose,” he reminisces. “It has an old school grunge paper effect.”
Crooked Fence beers are now distributed at Albertsons, Fred Meyers, Boise Co-Op, and Whole Foods.
When I asked why Kelly’s product isn’t carried at Wal-Mart, he aptly responded, “We were asked to carry it at Wal-Mart, but I can’t see our brand being there. It isn’t all about money. We stand for art, music, and our environment.”