Joshua Riley and partner Tushar Jain have created beads that turn fruit juice into alcoholic beverages overnight.
They’re not magic. They’re encapsulated yeast. And for Riley and Jain, they’re a business plan.
Riley, of Nampa, and his startup company, Ruckus Fermentation, are developing a product called the Bootlegger Bottle. The system uses the yeast beads to ferment fruit juice and sugar into drinks that taste like Arnold Palmers, Margaritas or whatever concoctions a home brewer cares to try.
Each batch makes 48 ounces, enough for about four drinks. Alcohol content ranges from 3 percent to 12 percent.
Riley, who developed the beads with Jain in April, said his most popular brew so far has been a warm Christmas drink that mixes apple cider, cinnamon Jolly Rancher candies and three quarters of a cup of brown sugar.
“That one’s definitely a favorite,” Riley said. “We’ve done a few tasting parties, and that one always seems to go first.”
Riley is developing the Bootlegger Bottle at the TECenter, a Boise State University-sponsored startup incubator at 3465 E. Terra Linda Way. With luck, Bootlegger Bottles will be available to purchase this spring online and possibly in Treasure Valley home brewing supply stores, he said.
He hasn’t yet determined prices. He said research shows between $40 and $50 could be a starting point for the Bootlegger Bottle and a set of beads, which are about the size of peas.
The beads, which are the key to the system’s rapid fermentation, can be reused for several months without losing their fermenting punch, Riley said.
Riley hatched the plan with partner Tushar Jain in Moscow while both attended the University of Idaho. Riley was finishing up a bachelor’s degree in business last April. Tushar was studying ethanol fuel production while finishing his science Ph.D.
A professor introduced the pair, who sat down and talked business.
“I told (Jain), ‘You don’t want to burn alcohol. You want to consume it. The business will be around longer,”’ Riley said. “We started working on making the beads.”
Ruckus Fermentation is one of 16 startups in the TECenter. Riley receives counseling from TECenter employees.
Market and Program Manager Will Fowler said he’s helped Riley research answers to the three questions facing all startups:
1. What problem exists in the market that your product solves?
2. Are people willing to buy your product?
3. Can the product be profitable?
Fowler said people like drinking and they like home brewing, answering Question 1. As he and Riley tackle the second question, he’s impressed with the yeast beads and with the samples Riley’s Bootlegger Bottle has produced.
“The guy is an excellent brewer,” Fowler said. “One of the perks of working here is walking over at 5 o’clock and seeing what’s in the fridge.”
Riley hopes the Bootlegger Bottle will be the starter product that leads to bigger uses for Jain’s beads technology, which could ferment beer, wine or liquor in different setups using processes that take longer than a day. Riley said future products could be marketed to home-brewing craft beer enthusiasts like himself. He’s used the beads to ferment several styles of ale, which takes longer.
Eventually, Riley said he hopes to sell large-scale bead products to breweries, wineries and distilleries.
To raise money to pay for plastic molds and other startup equipment, Riley started a campaign on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com. A total of 228 backers had donated $19,650 to the project as of Thursday morning. Ruckus Fermentation will keep the money if it meets its $25,000 goal by this Sunday, Jan. 5. Riley said he’s lined up investors if the Kickstarter campaign fails.
For more information or to donate to the campaign, search for “bootlegger bottle” at kickstarter.com.
Zach Kyle: 377-6464, @IDS_zachkyle