First Fed Focus: Koto Brewing Co.


Brewing Community One Pint at a Time at Koto Brewing Co.


More than a decade ago, Utah’s expensive beer prompted Shane Cook to start brewing his own. Back then he had no plans to move to Twin Falls and zero desire to open his own restaurant.

Today, his Koto Brewing Co. location is more than a place to enjoy a craft beer. It’s a community hub, a tribute to local history and a testament to Shane’s resilience… and adaptability.

Shane’s restaurant industry journey began at KFC during his teens. His culinary passion led him through various roles, from chef at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn to revitalizing struggling bagel chain stores. A similar role relocated his family to the Magic Valley, but his last restaurant job had him planning to leave the industry altogether.

He was considering a cardboard factory job when a friend informed him about an available space in a historic downtown Twin Falls building. His friend urged him to try his own thing and be his own boss. Soon after, Shane opened Twin Falls Sandwich Company.

Though the sandwich shop kept him busy, Shane’s interest in brewing continued to grow. A contact at the sandwich shop connected him with Pierre Tusow, and they became fast friends over hops and barley. Today Pierre is Koto’s brewmaster.

While Pierre and Shane renovated the brewery space, they had no set name for their next adventure, until they found themselves staring at the 2x4s. Their building was home to the historic Koto family restaurant (Tom’s Café) in the 1920s, one of the city’s first fine dining options. Shane felt compelled to honor this legacy by carrying the name forward and continuing the Koto family’s community-focused approach and attention to quality.

As Shane talked to the Koto family to seek their approval, he learned more about their history. Beyond opening one of the first fine dining locations, marked by table linens and aquariums with fresh fish, the Kotos were one of the first Japanese-American families to reside in Twin Falls. During World War 2, the family was relocated to the internment camp in Minidoka. Recognizing this history, for multiple years, Koto Brewing has hosted camp survivors when they reunite each year to tell stories and see one another.

Shane also references the Koto family legacy with some menu items in the realm of Asian fusion. And, he prioritizes local ingredients whenever possible. Most hops are sourced within 60 miles and the base grain is sourced near Idaho Falls. Local produce is also a regular part of the menu ingredients. Additionally, Koto used local contractors for construction to keep money within the Twin Falls economy.

“It’s not just about beer; it’s about building a community,” Shane says. “I see the guys who worked on the HVAC, the guys who worked on our floors. They come in and tell their families because they’re proud of what they did here and I’m proud of the work they did as well.”

Koto also fosters community through live music, fundraising events, and by supporting local charities, from youth sports to pet rescues.

Like any business, Shane faced challenges, especially during the pandemic. He relied on First Federal Bank for business loans, pandemic aid, and daily operations, knowing he could call Kai Mathews, his business banker, any time he needed his counsel. His wife, Emily, is a long-time First Fed employee, and Shane and his English Bulldog, Walter, visit the bank daily.

The uniqueness of owning a brewery keeps Shane energized. “What gets me motivated and drives me nuts is the constant change in this business,” he says.

In the end, Koto Brewing Co. stands as a testament to Shane’s resilience, vision, and commitment. It’s a place where locals can enjoy a pint of craft beer, listen to live music, and feel the convergence of history and community.

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