The brewers at Bolo Beer Co. have a secret weapon: their water.

Located in the remote town of Valentine in the Nebraska Sandhills, Bolo Beer has access to pure aquifer water, which is not treated or filtered. It’s a unique feature that helps Bolo Beer’s IPAs, wheat beers, and sour beers stand out from the competition. “With breweries, everybody buys their ingredients from the same places, but our water is the difference,” says Kyle Arganbright, co-owner of Bolo Beer.

For small-business owners, operating in a remote area can be a rewarding experience, helping to build the local economy and offering access to plentiful land or natural resources. And while these locations may lack access to amenities such as natural gas that are available in denser locations, many business owners turn to easily accessible propane to meet energy needs for space heating, water heating, and other building and operational needs. Two new videos show how small businesses are using propane to thrive in remote locations.

Brewing at peak performance

At Bolo Beer, one of those operational needs was powerful water-heating technology for optimal brewing. “Quality of product is our primary concern,” Arganbright says, “so when we were looking at different processes, we had the option to use a steam boil system that’s electric. But the traditional style is to use an open flame to boil and to brew your beer.” So the brewers went with propane to fuel their boil kettles, the last step in the brewing process.

The brewing process also uses propane water heaters to provide hot water in the mash process, in which milled grain is mixed with hot water to make the wort used to produce beer. Propane can power both tankless water heaters and condensing tankless water heaters, and it’s a more economical fuel source, with propane water heaters able to save 25 percent or more on operating costs compared with electric water heaters.

The brewery also uses propane space heating in its family-friendly taproom, and a propane fire pit offers a cozy outdoor gathering space.

With pure water being such an important natural resource, Arganbright says, being conscious of the local environment is an important principle. “We strive for zero waste, and so it’s important that our fuel matches that,” he says. “The Sandhills is a fragile system, and it’s important that we leave it in good shape for the next generation. Using propane that has no chance of contamination is very valuable to us.” Heating oil systems, by contrast, can be costly to clean up or environmentally damaging if spills occur.

Resilient heating for game birds

Like Bolo Beer, H&H Game Birds finds plenty of benefits in its remote location. The farm raises Chinese ringneck pheasants, so it benefits from plenty of land on which to raise 15,000 game birds and hatch 30,000 roosters a year. It also enjoys proximity to its clientele, says owner Jesse Heese.

“We primarily sell to private hunting lodges, and we also sell birds to [South Dakota] Game, Fish, and Parks for repopulating reasons,” he says, “trying to keep the name up for South Dakota being the best place to go pheasant hunting.”

As an agricultural operation, H&H has extensive energy needs, and it relies on propane as a clean and accessible option in the absence of natural gas. The operation uses propane water heating for washing eggs and cleaning (“which we do a lot of,” Heese says), and radiant hydronic heating for the barn.

“Our weather swings from 100 degrees in the summertime to 30 below 0 in the wintertime,” Heese says. H&H’s propane boiler pumps hot water through tubes in the barn’s concrete floor, radiating heat up through the entire barn. It’s an efficient option that also makes H&H more resilient and less reliant on a steady source of electricity.

“The way we take care of our chicks, I would say pheasants are a bit more delicate. The reliability of propane heat is a big bonus to my operation because it’s safer.”

“If we went with electric and we had a disaster or a scenario where the power had gone out, it would take a humongous generator to be able to keep up with our barn,” Heese says. “It’s going to benefit me a lot by being able to radiate that heat if something goes wrong for several hours, as opposed to electric, where if something goes wrong, you look at extreme amounts of fatality in your birds.

“The way we take care of our chicks, I would say pheasants are a bit more delicate. The reliability of propane heat is a big bonus to my operation because it’s safer.”

H&H Game Birds and Bolo Beer Co. are just two of the many small businesses in rural areas that rely on propane to help them build the local economy and create jobs while reducing their reliance on large utilities. “Propane’s important for a lot of these operations that might be 60 miles from a community,” Arganbright says. “Having propane provides another option when businesses are looking at expanding or when businesses are looking at locating to Valentine. Having the flexibility to meet those energy needs is very important to us.”