Brewing in the burbs

South suburbs tap into craft trend

Planned area breweries reflect growing demand

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National statistics show most Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery. For those residing along the C-470 corridor, the drive is soon to get a lot shorter than that.

Four new microbreweries will open in south suburban Denver during the first few months of 2014, and at least two others say they have solid plans but still are zeroing in on sites. The biggest of them all — Breckenridge Brewery — plans a spring 2015 opening of its 12-acre Santa Fe Drive complex.

The establishments under construction extend from Highland’s Ranch’s eastern border with Lone Tree to just beyond its western border, all two miles or less from C-470. They join a couple of existing microbreweries already garnering strong local support.

South suburbia’s newest brewers say the area’s been underserved, and it’s a gap they’re happy to fill.

And if the Boulder-based American Brewers Association is right, many more will come.

“Today, we have 2,700 breweries in the United States,” spokeswoman Julia Hearst said.
Of those, 98 percent are small, independent, craft businesses.

“In addition to that, the Brewers Association on record nationally has 1,700 in planning,” she said. “There is room for exponential growth. And there’s more demand than supply in the marketplace today.”

Not since before Prohibition has beer enjoyed such heady popularity. In the late 1800s, between 3,000 and 4,000 breweries operated in the United States, many serving as neighborhood hubs. Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, destroyed that way of life, Hearst said. For decades after, large brewers dominated the market.

“We’ve finally come back,” she said. “The reason it’s come back is because it’s become localized, and the small and independent craft brewers have finally gotten their footing. We don’t make predictions, but I can say, the future looks very bright.”

Lone Tree Brewing Company co-owner John Winter was the first to venture into the Lone Tree/Highlands Ranch market in December 2011. The business’ quick success has made Winter a trusted source for prospective brewery owners.

He sees their businesses as a complement to his, not competition.

“We’ll let our beer stand by itself,” Winter said. “What we’re really interested in is building the number of people who enjoy craft beer.

More breweries “provides a much greater amount of diversity while at the same time (the area) becomes a more popular destination for craft beer connoisseurs.”

Winter believes there’s a vast untapped market among people who currently drink brand-name beers, wine or alcohol. He thinks the proliferation and proximity of microbreweries likely will prompt some to try — and convert to — drinking craft beer.

He and other area brewers also see side markets for shuttles and bicycle tourism. Most of the existing and soon-to-open microbreweries are either on or within easy pedaling distance of the C-470 and South Platte River trails.

“With Breckenridge coming on board, I have a feeling we’re going to be able to provide more than enough stops for a tour from one end of C-470 to the other,” said Jeff Atencio, owner of the nearly complete Three Freaks Brewery. “That’s what’s fantastic about this explosion of craft beer: There’s plenty of room for everyone to play, and the consumer is going to benefit from this choice because we’ll all be striving for high quality.”

Hearst said collaboration among craft brewers is key to the industry’s current and continued success, especially given the complexity of the brewing business. It also reflects a desire among beer lovers to share what they see as one of life’s true pleasures.

“I would say that to open a brewery is one of the hardest, most expensive, most compliance-intensive, most demanding business tasks to do,” she said. “So why would people be persevering at such a strong rate?

“This has become a little piece of the American dream. It’s a way to live out the cultural evolution we’ve gone through in our country of not just making a buck, but using our time to make the world a better place.”

What's brewing?

A look at breweries coming soon to the south metro area. (More breweries are planned. Listed here are those that have sites and are nearing completion.)

Three Freaks Brewery

Location: 7140 E. County Line Road, Highlands Ranch (near C-470 and Quebec Street)
Targeted opening: Late February

Owner/primary contact: Jeff Atencio

More info: 3freaksbrewery.com

What to expect: Atencio is a South Metro Fire inspector who’s been home brewing for 27 years.

“We’re going to be one of the smaller ones at five barrels. That’s going to give us the opportunity to be a little bit more aggressive as far as experimenting.”

Three Freaks likely will open with four different beers, including a Belgian, lager and gluten-free selection. Atencio hopes eventually to expand to eight.

Blue Spruce Brewing Company

4151 E. County Line Road, Centennial (near County Line Road and Colorado Boulevard)
Targeted opening: Late February

Owner/primary contact: Rick Kane

More info: bluesprucebrewing.com

What to expect: Kane is a former Douglas County School District teacher who’s been home brewing for 20 years.

Blue Spruce will have a seven-barrel brewing system. It will offer Mexican food along with Colorado cider and wines, margaritas, 12 of his craft beers and eight guest beers.

“We’re amazingly picky about our beers and what is going to go out. We’ll have a great variety and high quality.”

Blue Spruce will seat about 220 and offer outdoor seating during the warm months.

38 State Brewing Company

8071 S. Broadway, Littleton (near County Line Road and Broadway)

Targeted opening: March

Owner/primary contact: Mike Keating

More info: 38statebrew.com

What to expect: Keating was a master gardener who started brewing about four years ago. His hobby quickly outgrew his garage, prompting him to open a business and share his passion. Keating describes his operation as small batch, and said the beer is infused with “a lot of fun and energy.”

“My double IPA is my favorite beer to make and drink. That’s one of the beers I hope to have on opening day.”

Other flagship beers include Scottish and amber ales and a chocolate bourbon stout.

Living the Dream Brewing

12305 Dumont Way, Highlands Ranch (near Santa Fe Drive and Highlands Ranch Parkway)

Targeted opening: Early March

Owner/primary contacts: Jason Bell, Carrie Knose

More info: livingthedreambrewing.com

What to expect: Bell and Knose both come from a brewing and hospitality background.
They’re building a 7-barrel brew house with a tasting room and a summer outdoor beer garden.

“We have over 30 recipes already developed,” Knose said. “Jason is a very stylistic brewer. My brewing style is a lot more experimental. So we have a ying-yang situation where he’s very mechanically driven and thorough, and I’m a little more on the creative side. So it brings it full circle in the brewing world.”

Breckenridge Brewery

6775 South Santa Fe Drive, Littleton

Between Mineral Avenue and Main Street

Targeted opening: Spring 2015

More info: breckbrew.com

What to expect: Farmhouse serving beer and food with indoor/outdoor seating, brewery tours, general store, growler-to-go station, hops field and a beer garden.

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