Colorado has never been shy about its craft credentials. Home to some of the country's most famous craft breweries, you can drop a pin anywhere in the state and you're not more than 15 minutes from a homegrown brewery or brewpub. We've riffed before about how much we love Colorado, and things haven't changed. We're still crushing on them, their beautiful state, and their beer. Any time we're invited to Colorado for some great beer and an even better conversation, we'll be there. We recently had a chance to chat with the hard-working and terribly pleasant team at one of Colorado's most awarded craft breweries. Over the years, Dry Dock Brewing Company has amassed a small mountain of GABF, BA, and World Beer Cup awards for their innovative beer, so it only makes sense that we felt obliged to try a few.
Address - South Dock Location -15120 E Hampden Ave, Aurora, CO 80014
North Dock Location - 2801 Tower Rd, Aurora CO, 80011
Founding date - October 13th, 2005
# of Employees - 41-60
Where can I find their beer? - Colorado of course!
Tap Room Hours -
South Dock Location:
Monday & Tuesday: NOON – 9:00 PM
Wednesday: NOON – 9:30 PM
Thursday: NOON – 10:00 PM
Friday: NOON – 11:00 PM
Saturday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Canoe Room at North Dock Location:
Thursday: 2pm – 7pm
Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 7pm
The city of Aurora punches far above its weight class in terms of beer production. Colorado's 3rd largest city by population, Aurora snuggles right up the the east side of Denver and now plays host to at least 10 individual businesses that brew their own beer. This an impressive contribution to the Greater Denver Metropolitan area, which has roughly 1 trillion breweries at this point. Aurora is the sort of town that makes you want to hop on your bike, stop into a few breweries, and enjoy that amazing combination of mountain views and prairie breeze.
Dry Dock Brewing Co. is a little slice of heaven in Aurora. The only tasting room brewery of its kind in Aurora, Dry Dock has carved out a diverse (and die-hard) clientele in the community, drawing people from all over the Denver Metro area to their award-winning brews.
We grabbed a bar stool and had a conversation with Kevin DeLange, owner and founder of Dry Dock Brewing Company, to discuss how an education administrator and a pension actuary (his business partner, Michelle Reding) came to own and run one of the most acclaimed regional breweries in the Denver area.
Just like most guys in the industry, DeLange got his start as a homebrewer. Through his toils and experimentation, he recognized a need for a one-stop-shop where a homebrewer could source all of their needs and chat/troubleshoot with knowledgeable staff. Thus, he and Reding purchased The Brew Hut in 2002. This joint sells and rents about anything a homebrewer could possibly wish for. They also recently started offering on-site brewing skills classes.
Just two years later, the duo was ready to take on a new adventure, and they leased the space next door in order to set up a microbrewery. In October, 2005 Dry Dock Brewing Co. opened their doors to the public. They set sail with the HMS Victory ESB (now Dry Dock’s Amber Ale), which was a decent bet, considering just six months after opening the brewery doors, it took home a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in the Best Bitter category. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing for Dry Dock. They have brought home 20 GABF medals, the prestigious Brewers Association’s Small Brewery of the Year award and five World Beer Cup awards. In fact, they have so many awards that their display wall has bled around the corner to a second wall – something DeLange hadn’t even noticed until we sat down to chat.
DeLange’s affinity for nautical history, and the pair’s combined entrepreneurial spirit, have resulted in what seems to be a boundless opportunity for growth at the brewery. They estimate that production volume increases, on average, about 30% each year, which has necessitated 4 expansions in just 10 years.
Interestingly, DeLange credits much of the brewery’s success to the collaborative spirit of the Colorado brewing industry. When asked if he felt the squeeze of so many competing breweries in a relatively small region (the state greets a new brewery about once a week), he responded that he feels nothing but love for other brewers, remembering how much help he received from those that preceded Dry Dock. It was an acquaintance from Ska Brewing Company in Durango, CO who tipped him off to the local, pre-owned brew equipment that became the foundation of the original brewhouse. To this day, he reaches out to friends from stalwart Colorado breweries like Ska, Breckenridge Brewing, Odell Brewing Company, or Left Hand Brewing Company for help or advice with business growing pains, management quandaries, or hops swaps during a shortage. Such is the community in Colorado, something we can never get tired of.
A true proponent of supporting local businesses (there are signs on the wall that encourage patrons to “Keep Colorado cool, crafted & independent ” (KeepCOLocal.com), Dry Dock takes great pride in keeping their distribution local. DeLange mentioned that although interstate distributors have courted his brewery, he wouldn’t even consider wider distribution until he can keep up with local demand. That hasn’t happened yet, so the beer stays in Colorado.
DeLange takes pride in his staff and he make every effort to keep them learning. Somewhere along the way, Dry Dock established Firkin Friday (Firkin Saturday at the North Dock location) in the taproom. He emphasized that they did not invent this idea, but merely adopted it as a way to continually experiment with flavor profiles and develop staff palates. Everyone from brewers to bartenders gets a turn at concocting an original brew. Staff and patrons alike share in the resulting ecstasy...or agony. Highlights include a blood orange pale ale and an oak-aged double IPA. A particular lowlight was a rice-based wasabi beer, which apparently "just tasted like vegetables". You can't bat a thousand.
After visiting the brewery and trying several of their beers, we can assure you that Dry Dock is certainly worthy of its local distinction as a first-class brewery. Check out their hours above, drop in for a couple beers, and make sure to bring a friend. After all, that's what Colorado beer is all about.
Published August 2015