Witness the birth of Beervana in the Rockies:
Over Memorial Day weekend, an upstart brewpub on the outskirts of Breck joined a pantheon of established microbreweries (Breckenridge Brewery, Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s Brewing Company in Dillon) scattered to the four corners of Summit County, when two ski bums–turned–business partners began pouring porter, wit, pale ale, India pale ale, and black saison from taps fashioned out of chairlift cable. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the county, the brewmaster at Dillon Dam left his post and took ownership of Silverthorne’s Village Inn, which will reopen this fall as the Baker’s Brewery, a sixty-barrel brewhouse specializing in fast-fermenting Belgian ales paired with sandwiches on hot-out-of-the-oven, malt-enhanced bread.
“Summit County always has been a destination for adventure seekers who want to experience the beauty of the mountains, and we feel we’re adding to that,” says Baker’s Brewery brewmaster Cory Forster, who decided to part ways with the Dam and partner with Breck entrepreneur Stephanie Sadler after the two met at a local homebrew competition. (Sadler won the experimental category with a roasted chile brown ale.) “It was Kennedy who said, ‘A high tide floats all boats.’ We want to make Summit County as well known for its beer as it is for skiing and riding.”
Same goes for Jason Ford, brewmaster at Breck’s new Broken Compass, who, like Forster, sports an industry-standard ZZ Top beard and subscribes to the “more suds floats all brewpubs” mentality.
“Engineering is all about confidentiality agreements and secrecy, but in this industry, when it comes to making good beer, everybody helps everybody out to the nth degree,” says the chemical engineer by trade, who was brewing batches of biofuel on the Front Range (and home-brewing with the likes of Jason Wiedmaier, then a brewer at Aurora’s Dry Dock who won five gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and now owns his own brewery in Lone Tree) before relocating to Breck to open Broken Compass. Ford knew craft beer—and how to scale the process to commercial proportions—but he didn’t know much about managing a business. For that he turned to longtime friend David “Ax” Axelrod, a ski instructor and raft guide who left Breck to pursue a green business MBA from the Bainbridge Institute in Washington state.
“I needed to transition, to grow up and do something different, and also make a difference,” explains Axelrod, whose soul-searching included selling carbon credits in Mozambique before his friend came calling. “We were ski buddies before we were business partners, then Ford said, ‘I’m going to do this, and I need your help.’”
They settled on a bay in Breck’s not exactly hip industrial park (off the beaten path but near the bike path), partly to distance themselves from Main Street and partly because being on the fringes meant they could, if they wished, eventually serve food (from a cart, à la Crazy Mountain’s Crazy Wagon in Edwards). Then they filled the brewhouse with fermenters, built out an eco-chic taproom appointed with beetle kill and recycled ski equipment (and relics from Peak 9 restaurant), and, come opening day, had six taps flowing (including a chile pepper ale and a porter made with roasted organic coconut flakes). Crowds did the same, keeping the doors swinging.
“It’s no secret that people get tired of Main Street,” Ford says. “We want this to be the place that’s less busy, where all the locals come to hang out and just be.”
Meanwhile, at the former Village Inn in Silverthorne, with four fifteen-barrel fermenters on order and blueprints in hand for a 115-seat dining room, Cory Forster was working out recipes, including the reprise of his locally famous French Silk Stout, a mocha-enhanced beer he once brewed at Keystone’s Wolf Rock in homage to the pie and coffee that sustained him through the night shift in a previous professional life as a manager at a Perkins in Minnesota.
“We’re going to be a destination for beer geeks on vacation,” he predicts. “We have six awesome breweries spread out all over the county, and we want to make sure you find some new beers you love while you’re here.”
As for souvenirs, Forster’s planning to can, but he won’t be selling his brew in stores, he says.
“So you’ll have to come to us to get it.”