The opportunity to support the University of Idaho by cracking open a cold one is almost here — Vandal Beer.

The new brew brand will release its first drink this summer, a gold pale ale expected to hit Latah County convenience store shelves, bars and restaurants in August, with a portion of sales sales going to UI scholarships.

R. Austin Nielsen, a University of Idaho student who launched the Vandal Beer brand, would not disclose which retailers will sell the beverage, but said a few have expressed an interest in selling it.

He said the beer will include local ingredients and be produced in the Coeur d’Alene area starting in July. It will also be sold in Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene.

The ale will be available in 22-ounce bottles, 16-ounce cans and on draft. They can be purchased in packs too, Nielsen said.

He said more varieties from the Vandal Beer brand will be produced in the future, and he plans to bring his product into large retail stores in the area by the end of this year.

Nielsen hopes to expand into Pullman stores and other eastern Washington retailers also.

Besides selling a tasty beverage, Nielsen, 27, said he will donate 10 percent of all Vandal Beer sales to University of Idaho scholarships and a fund he plans to start aimed at helping nonprofits, businesses and individuals who fall in line with Vandal Beer’s mission of making a positive impact in the community.

“It’s not about the money for me,” Nielsen said. “It’s not about any of that. It’s really about I’m pursuing my passion so I want to help others do the same.”

He said he wants to donate to the two funds because he understands the financial challenges of attending college and he loves helping the community.

“I never had the chance to go to college right out of high school,” Nielsen said. “I’ve had to work for everything myself my entire life so I know how hard it is and how much of a challenge it is for certain people out there.”

He said he worked seven years in the beer and wine industry, which helped him develop contacts with potential retailers.

Nielsen said the Vandal Beer idea started as a project while he was a student in the Idaho Entrepreneurs program at UI. He said he and another student tried to come up with a UI brand beer but Nielsen said the university ultimately decided not to move forward with it.

Because he had already invested a great deal of time and effort into the project, he changed the scope a bit and turned it into what it is today, which he indicates on the brand’s website as not affiliated with UI.

Nielsen said Vandal Beer’s taste and mission will distinguish itself from other Moscow beers.

“We have a story,” Nielsen said. “People yearn to be a part of something and this was something that they can be a part of that’s greater than themselves … the story we have and our mission and our goal, it’s not something that you really see. It’s not just another Coors Light or another PBR. There’s something behind it.”

Nielsen grew up in Coeur d’Alene and moved back to the area at the end of last year after spending three years in Moscow while attending UI. He said he plans to earn his bachelor degrees in business management and operations management at UI’s Coeur d’Alene campus and North Idaho College, also in Coeur d’Alene.

For more information on Vandal Beer, visit www.vandal.beer.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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