Colorado has 284 craft breweries and cities like Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder and Longmont have been on the map of craft beer aficionados nationwide for decades now.
But after three localbreweries took home medals at the Denver International …
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Lovers of craft beer can often point to a particular beer or two that made them think about beer differently and drew away from mass-market offerings from major companies.
“For me, personally, it was the Stone IPA,” said 38 State Brewing co-owner Brett Blazek, who went to college in San Diego, California, near craft beer stalwart Stone Brewing’s headquarters.
“For me, it was 1991 or 1992 Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen,” said Andy Nelson of Locavore Beer Works. “It was nothing like anything I had tasted ever.”
“I was in the Navy from ‘88 to ‘93 and you drank Bud or MGD,” said Jason Reinhardt of Locavore. “When I got out, Sam Adams and Fat Tire and Sierra Nevada were coming out.”
“The first one that got me into craft beer and off of the macros was Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA,” said Jason Bell of Living the Dream Brewing Company.
Bell also cited Mean Manalishi Double IPA from Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Ohio and Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Company in Michigan.
“They were two beers that were over the top and exploded with flavor,” he said.
Beer drinkers from around the Denver area were exposed to all three breweries on May 7 and 8 at the South Denver Beer Festival at Robert F. Clement Park in south Jefferson County. Among the attendees were Shawn and Hillary Sich of Lakewood.
“This is incredible,” Shawn Sich said after a drink of Living the Dream’s Empty Trophy Case IPA. “It’s a very unique beer; it’s very complex.”
“I like it because it’s not an over-the-top IPA,” Hillary said.
A common theme emerges when talking to Littleton’s beermakers — people who turned a hobby into a business.
38 State Brewing
Brett Blazek and his neighbors began making beer with a homebrewing kit.
“We just started screwing around in the garage like every other red-blooded American who likes beer,” he said.
After getting positive reviews from friends, Blazek, Jason Virzi and Mike and Kim Keating opened 38 State Brewing Company in an old auto repair shop along South Broadway two years ago this month, an occasion being marked with a party at the brewery on May 14.
Mike Keating, a former electrician and greenhouse manager, works full-time as the head brewer while the others all still have day jobs. Blazek, a middle school history teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools, handles marketing and public relations.
“There’s a certain charm to us homebrewing in a garage and now being professional brewers in a garage,” Blazek said.
Locavore Beer Works
Jason Reinhardt and Andy Nelson met in 2008 in a homebrewing club and began making beer together.
“I was looking for someone to brew with,” said Reinhardt, who had been making his own beer since 1995.
They opened their location on South Platte Canyon Road and West Bowles Avenue in November 2014, an approximate midpoint between Reinhardt’s home in Centennial and Nelson’s in Lakewood.
Making the leap to opening a brewery was a big decision, but Reinhardt’s frustration with his job as an environmental chemist helped push it along.
“I reached that point where there was no job satisfaction,” he said.
“It was the right thing in retrospect,” said Nelson, who still works as a pilot for Spirit Airlines. “But it seemed scary at the time.”
Living the Dream
Living the Dream co-founders Jason Bell and Carrie Knose also have backgrounds in homebrewing, but both have professional alcohol industry pasts as well.
Bell worked as a chef and sommelier in retail liquor sales in the Chicago area; Knose worked in beer quality control.
“My wife told me to get a hobby because all I did was work,” Bell said. “I started homebrewing and it kind of blew up from there.”
Bell soon figured out he wanted to open a brewery and decided to focus on learning how to sustain such a business.
“I immediately started studying the commercial process,” he said.
He met Knose, who moved to the area from Reno, through a friend. One of the first things they did was set 10-year goals, including having distribution in 35 states.
Bell said he picked the south suburbs for a location because it was a good fit for his family, and also because of a lack of competition in the area when Living the Dream opened on Dumont Way, south of C-470, in July 2014.
“We just felt like it was an untapped market,” Bell said.
Colorado has 284 craft breweries and cities like Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder and Longmont have been on the map of craft beer aficionados nationwide for decades now.But after three local breweries took home medals at the Denver International Beer Competition last month, some beer lovers may take a closer look at the south suburbs.Locavore Beer Works and 38 State Brewing Co., both in Littleton, and Living the Dream Brewing Co. in northern Douglas County, near Highlands Ranch, were recognized.“We've got good beer coming out of here," said 38 State co-owner Brett Blazek. "We've got award-winning beer.”The brewery's 38 State IPA was awarded a gold medal in the American IPA category, while its Half Mowed Lawn Saison won a silver in the saison category and its 38 State Brown won bronze in the English Brown Ale category.For Locavore co-founders Jason Reinhardt and Andy Nelson, the awards lend an air of legitimacy to the young brewery.“We don't just like them, these are good beers,” Reinhardt said.Locavore won a gold medal in the Imperial and Double IPA category for its Lightning Hopkiss, two silver medals in the American Light Lager and Witbier categories for its Loggerhead and Sugar Magnolia and a bronze in American Pale Ale for 5 Season.Living the Dream was awarded a gold medal in the flavored and specialty beers category for its High Class Horchata and silver medals in the Schwarzbier, International Lager, Belgian Strong Ale categories for Deutsch Vader, Schüss Bomber and Stubborn Monk, as well as bronze in the Sweet and Milk Stout, Dry Stout and Imperial and Double IPA categories for Helluva Caucasian Stout, Plaid Pants and Hop EM DBL IPA.And DIBC is not some small local competition, as Blazek points out. Competition came from as far away as Hawaii and included some of the biggest names in craft brewing, including Boston Beer Company — better known as Samuel Adams.“Boston Beer Company, two thousand miles away, decided this was important enough for them to enter,” Blazek said.For Living the Dream co-owner Jason Bell, awards are nice, but making good beer is better.“I would rather have a packed taproom of people who like what we do than a medal,” he said.More exposure of local breweries is better for all of them, Blazek says.“I think it's healthy competition, but at the end of the day we want everyone to succeed.”
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