Today we continue our guest series on craft beer culture with local student David Wright. If you missed his introduction, read it here.
Although craft beer is rapidly expanding all over the city, there is still a bit of disconnect between different subsections as well as an underlying lack of unity that in part reflects the general sprawl of Colorado Springs. Against this current, breweries and small businesses are looking to bring the rest of the community their aspiration of a cohesive environment. New businesses such as the Wild Goose are priming others to seriously expand the city’s offerings and amalgamate regional breweries while promoting a cultural symbiosis focused on emphasizing the word “craft.” The city’s culture seems to subtly reflect its geographic distribution, as the breweries help each other out, but are not always actively engaged in playing off one another’s strengths. Established brewers are ever willing to offer advice and help get another company into the making, but there is not a strong linkage that ties different locales together. Two breweries-to-be combined with Bristol’s recent efforts are helping to expand stylistic choices as well as bring in other industries within the city to change the way in which our community approaches the booming Colorado phenomenon.
Fieldhouse Brewing Company has been in the works for quite some time now and are now preparing to open this summer. Self-proclaimed “experienced DIYers,” Travis and Niki first talked to Focus on the Beer about their progress in February 2012. One year later, they are opening up on Tejon St. between Phantom downtown and Bristol at Ivywild, a stretch of the city without a brewing operation. This emphasis on place is crucial, as it has the potential to create a readily accessible line of breweries unseen throughout the rest of the city, though seemingly everywhere in Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder. Niki has Celiac Disease, so Fieldhouse has been working with Colorado Malting Co. from Alamosa to figure out some gluten-free recipes that don’t suck and are actually competitive with other microbreweries’ regular beer. I met the couple at TRiNiTY (who boasts an unbelievable variety of taps from around the state to complement their incredible barrel program) to talk for awhile and she grabbed a cider, noting how she hopes to expand the entire industry’s approach to gluten-free beers by developing innovative recipes. Not that beer connoisseurs are necessarily going to drop everything to focus on gluten-free options, but solid execution of the idea could encourage a shift to beer for those unable to process gluten. This adjustment would be even more pronounced if the couple is able to bring a wider variety of people into the space on a consistent basis through community interaction and promotion of other small businesses.
While talking to Jason Yester of TRiNiTY, he mentioned that the initial ideology behind a brewpub was appealing to a crowd of beerlovers in a way that allowed non-beerlovers to engage in the transcendent experience. This amalgamation of people with different tastes and digestive limitations has been incredibly successful for him, having created a world-class brewery as well as popular Colorado restaurant. If the gluten-free venture and communal synergy works, Fieldhouse may be able to create a more consistent market following.
The crew over at Fossil Brewing exudes the same mentality, with similar ideas in mind to change how the city comes together and bring more people into the brewery on a regular basis. FOTB recently featured an article about their driving mentalities, including their use of locally sourced equipment by a company exploring its first generation of brewhouse equipment. The company itself is also structured in a way that promotes collaboration. Josh is the head brewer, but he is more like the head of a brewing council in which all owners have just as much say in each beer as anyone else. The five person team is the face of the company and ever present, involving themselves in events and day-to-day operations as much as possible and hosting events that support non-profit initiatives. With Ivywild and the Wild Goose setting a precedent to constantly host events and showcase talent and originality in the city, both Fieldhouse and Fossil are aware of the necessity to continually be something more than beer. Josh and Fossil Brewing saw a gap in microbreweries between Paradox and Colorado Mountain on 24 and found a location right outside of the main stretch of Old Colorado City. Without an investor, they are running a low-budget start-up aimed at a working class market in which they have had to make sacrifices to their ideal economic picture. The focus on bringing people into the business hopes to transcend any posturing of beer snobbery and emphasize hard work and quality. Going along with Aly Hartwig’s vision to create alliances through Colorado Springs Craft Week, the two companies are working hard to incorporate other businesses, as Fossil is looking to pair local food innovators with its beer.
In every conversation that I have had so far, everyone has recognized the unique challenges that Colorado Springs presents, but also that the city is on the cusp of being able to make serious strides in the industry. Though Bristol garners continuity, they also just completely rebranded and moved into a different location, starting over in a different way than nascent companies. I had the chance to talk to Matt Ward and he mentioned the push for consistent marketing and a “complete re-imagination and homogenization” of the company. He confirmed the ideals of developing breweries, calling other companies “brothers in brewing” rather than competition.
I like that he addressed the anomaly of the Springs, noting how some people outside the city might see it as a sort of “red-headed stepchild” of Colorado, but how he thinks of it as more of a “little engine that could.” He sees future progress being made in connecting with other companies, for example collaborating with Pikes Peak and small businesses (not the least of which is the Ivywild project). With companies like Fieldhouse and Fossil coming to be, Colorado Springs can move towards a more cultured hub of innovation that Matt sees possible with beer as a driving element. Matt also reflected on the advent of the legalization of marijuana as an economic game changer, as Colorado’s history just added a new cash crop into its economy- something rarely seen before.
I talked to Peter Skrbek, the CFO of Deschutes in Bend, and he remarked how craft companies increase sales 16-18% when corporations drop 2%. Only a short drive away in Woodland Park, Paradox has implemented a strong barrel program that is gaining traction throughout the state and grabbing the attention of the entire state, as sours are becoming a trend in refinement. The real competitor in the game is Big Beer and once “the magic” of craft beer begins to take hold of more and more people, it will hook a larger crowd to join in the movement.
As a new and possibly temporary addition to the city of Colorado Springs hailing from Denver, the emphasis on community and a sense of place is attractive and makes me think that the Springs is only going to keep polishing its personality. Admittedly a little bit displaced from the city at times, CC students are not always keen on staying in the Springs after graduation, but coming cultural revolutions like the one in the works right now might help draw a stronger crowd of young professionals to make their permanent home here.