Craft breweries

South metro's beer mug runneth over

Two more microbreweries added to fast-growing list

Jane Reuter
Three Freaks owner Jeff Atencio, right, serves tasters to Highlands Ranch residents and first-time customers Dan and Sue Dolquist July 2.
Jane Reuter
Jason Bell, Carrie Knose and brewery dog Otto are ready to welcome beer lovers to Douglas County's newest tasting room, Living the Dream.
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Two more craft breweries recently joined the fast-expanding family of south metro beer makers. Three Freaks Brewery opened in early June at Quebec Street and County Line Road in Highlands Ranch. Also in northern Douglas County, Living the Dream opens July 12 off Highlands Ranch Parkway and South Santa Fe Drive.

“It's exciting for everybody that lives out here and wants to enjoy a quality, craft beer,” said Three Freaks owner Jeff Atencio. “I only hope we can live up to the same standards of those that were here before us. I'm excited to be part of it.”

The two tasting rooms opened just weeks behind neighboring breweries Blue Spruce in Centennial and 38 State in Littleton. Highlands Ranch's Grist, which opened in late 2013, led the recent spate of microbrewery openings.

“We're all around the same size, all in the same stages, going through all of the growing pains together,” said Living the Dream co-owner Carrie Knose, who sees the convergence of small brewers as a plus for all.

“It's almost like Napa,” she said. “It's the experience of going to different locations and trying different beers. You can go somewhere, do a sampler tray and say, `Let's go down the road and do Three Freaks or Grist or Lone Tree.'”

Most of the tasting rooms are in off-the-beaten-path locations, and some — like Lone Tree and Living the Dream — are tucked into strip developments among industrial neighbors.

“That goes with the nature of the business,” Knose said. “Breweries typically are in industrial areas. We happen to be manufacturing a very likable product. It makes it almost like a scavenger hunt to find them.”

To help beer lovers in their quest, south metro brewery owners are together working to start a microbrewery tour bus.

“It's almost as though as soon as you make your way up Santa Fe, you've entered the beer valley,” Atencio said. “What's nice about the craft beer community is we're not looking at somebody who's out for a buzz. We're looking at somebody who's enjoying the beer and appreciating the style.”

With so many breweries, “I think we're looking at a situation where the (breweries) will attempt to challenge each other to make great beers. I'm pretty sure we're going to see some very healthy, friendly competition. The consumer is going to benefit from that.”

Three Freaks

Three Freaks is located in a strip mall just off one of Highlands Ranch's busiest highway interchanges, and directly backing to the C-470 bicycle trail.

A longtime Highlands Ranch resident, Atencio determined long before he found the space that his business would be in Highlands Ranch. He wasn't aiming for an easy commute. Atencio is sold on the taste of the area's water, which he sees as key to making great-tasting beer. As a former South Metro Fire inspector and 27-year home brewer, Atencio knows a thing or two about water and beer making.

“I've been brewing with the water in Highlands Ranch for many years,” he said. “So we're using the same stuff now we did our homework with. That helps me to identify what we're looking for as far as the taste. It's been a benefit to us, and hopefully something the beer drinker can identify with.”

Part of Atencio's new job includes studying his customers' responses to his products, and trying to ascertain what strikes the deepest chord.

“The Lucky Clover (red) has been very popular,” he said. “The stout is very strong but hasn't overtaken the red. The Last Man Standing Belgian on certain evenings is the most popular; that kind of came as a bit of a surprise. So far, it's been pretty equal among the three.”

Like Living the Dream, 38 State and Blue Spruce, Atencio encountered stumbling blocks that pushed back the planned opening date of his five-barrel tasting room.

“But now, we're open,” he said. “I'm excited about looking forward, and the opportunity for us to be able to just make some fun, exciting beers.”

Three Freaks is located at 7140 E. County Line Road. For more information, visit www.3freaksbrewery.com.

Living the Dream

Knose and partner Jason Bell will peel open the rolling garage doors of their seven-barrel microbrewery July 12, with five beers on tap.

The words Knose uses to describe them are enough to make even a non-beer lover salivate. The cream stout is modeled after a white Russian cocktail using “rum, vanilla, chocolate and coffee."

“I added in peanut butter to give it a nice, organic nutty background,” she said. “Our South Island Wit … is very citrusy. It screams summer.”

The tasting room, meanwhile, is designed to scream Colorado. Knose and Bell chose the name to reflect their love of the state and its lifestyle, using cast-aside skis and wood to decorate the space.

“Most of us love to ski, climb, mountain bike, backpack, kayak,” said Knose, a former ski instructor. “We wanted to bring that whole outdoor Colorado theme into our taproom.”

Like Three Freaks, the microbrewery just south of Littleton backs to a bicycle trail, in this case the High Line Canal. The location is a natural tie-in to Knose's and Bell's love of the Colorado lifestyle, and makes a summer opening ideal, she said.

“We would have opened a few months ago according to plan,” Knose said. “But I think the timing is really good, especially with the bike-ability.”

Knose got her start in the industry working for Samuel Adams in Ohio. The company hosts an annual employee home brewing contest, and gave its employees home brew kits, which hooked Knose on the craft. Bell also is a longtime home brewer. While Living the Dream is starting small, Knose said they already have plans and connections for future distribution.

Living the Dream is located at 12305 Dumont Way. For more information, visit www.livingthedreambrewing.com.