Creating culture

Yak and Yeti brewer making more than just beer

Photo by Crystal Anderson
Adam Draeger sits before his selection of beers on tap at the Yak and Yeti.
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In the beginning

"Three years ago it was just the Yak and Yeti, and nobody even knew that we brew beer...”
— Adam Draeger

Fed up with the inexpensive, tasteless brews from Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser, Adam Draeger sought a different flavor, and a craft brew piqued his interest.

“They made it on-site, and it was the only place you can get the beer in the world — that hit a heartstring for me,” Draeger said. “From that point on, I was on a mission to hit as many brewpubs as I could in the world, because that was just really unique beer.”

Following what he refers to as his “aha” moment in 1998, Draeger, then an engineer in Iowa, began to research home brewing, swiftly becoming involved in the home-brew community. Over the next 10 years, he joined several local home-brewing clubs and organizations, becoming a connoisseur of the trade, dedicating his weekends to learning the dos and don’ts of brewing, and perfecting his craft.

“Between educating myself on different beer styles, and the hands-on and the creativity, those kind of melded together and I wanted to home-brew,” Draeger said. “I was happy being an engineer, but I’m even happier being a brewer.”

A segment of the craft beer movement, home brewing is a way for individuals to create their own beer and experience brewing on a micro level. As a home brewer, Draeger spent his time brewing, meeting with other brewers and his mentors, tasting their beers, researching what made good beer and developing a deep passion for the home-brew community and the craft-beer industry.

“I definitely became a better brewer. I hung on every word, they told me to try something, and I was definitely going to try it,” he said. “The home-brewing clubs in general got me to want to be a brewer and that ultimately came to wanting to turn pro.”

Now a professional brewer at the Yak and Yeti Brewpub, Draeger still pays homage to his brewing roots. By staying active in the local home-brew community, Draeger helps out local home brewers by creating the home-brew series, working with the KROC (Keg Ran Out Club) home-brewing organization to promote home brewers and working with home brewers to continue the trend of crafting quality beer.

“Home brewers get excited,” said Draeger. “The more breweries you get, the more home brewers you get; the more home brewers you get, the more breweries you get. It’s an upwards spiral — and you can see it here in Colorado.”

After leaving the engineering trade, Draeger moved his family to Colorado, where he sought work as a brewer with big breweries with a big beer culture, such as Avery Brewing Company, Oskar Blues and Great Divide Brewing Company. But after weighing his options, Draeger saw an opportunity to build, create and expand upon a small local brewery — the Yak and Yeti Brewpub.

Located in a historic house, the brewpub opened as an Indian/Nepalese restaurant, with only three beers on tap. Formerly the Cheshire Cat Brewpub, the restaurant was equipped with a microbrewery, but was in need of a beer culture and brand.

“I had an opportunity to work at a chain brewpub here in Colorado, and I turned that job down to work here,” Draeger said. “I came in here, there was no legitimacy, and I was like: This is a brewery? So I had to make a decision, do I want to be a shift brewer, with culture and low pay? Or do I want to be a head brewer at a place where there’s no culture and I have to take it upon myself to create it?”

Three years later, Draeger has furthered the Yak and Yeti Brewpub brand, creating a thriving beer culture with 10-12 beers on tap, community events, and serving up more than seven barrels, or 14 kegs, of craft beer a week to customers like Craig Rudolph, Neil Gedala and Edward Kajko.

“This is an inclusive place,” Kajko said. “There’s a lot of different type of people here to have good conversation with, play games with, they do yoga here, and the bike ride — it’s our neighborhood bar, it’s charming and I know people.”

Featuring authentic Indian and Nepalese cuisine, the Yak and Yeti has a family atmosphere where customers can come, enjoy a meal and a high-quality craft beer.

“If you want something refreshing, a light beer all the way up to heavy barleys, there’s a real broad spectrum,” Gedala said. “Where else can you enjoy authentic Nepalese and Indian food and wash it down with a good craft beer?”

One of three breweries in Arvada, the Yak and Yeti has grown from a restaurant and sleepy brewpub to a thriving brewery serving award-winning craft brews and fostering an inclusive, flavorful beer community.

“Arvada now has blossomed into three breweries,” Draeger said. “Three years ago it was just the Yak and Yeti, and nobody even knew that we brew beer, and now we’ve got three breweries and we’re fortunate enough that those other two breweries are doing a really good job of promoting me.”