Here's a startlingly radical fact for you. In 2014, Colorado saw about 55 new breweries open. Fifty-freaking-five. That's almost as many breweries as opened in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine (in 2014) combined. And those states aren't lacking great breweries. We continue to love the beer scene on the front range, and we had the chance to visit with Fiction Beer Company, a new brewery in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver, CO.
Just like the rest of the American frontier, Colorado imparts a sense of scenic grandeur that is both inspiring and humbling. In every sense of the word, it's huge. The landscape is, for the most part, untamed. The Rockies sit proudly on the horizon, dominating your view of the western sky. The waterways snake down from the mountains with confidence, carving waterways into the land that extends for hundreds of miles in either direction. Makes us want to drink a beer.
Have you ever sat down in your favorite comfy chair, cracked a fresh beer, and had a good long read?
What a silly question...of course you have! It's a lovely experience after all. In actuality, we can't really think of a better way to kill some time, enjoy a good book, and dig into a great beer. Ryan and Christa Kilpatrick themed their entire business around this idea, and I think you'll agree with us when we say that it just makes sense.
The more we spoke with Ryan Kilpatrick about his brewery, the more we realized that underneath that calm exterior lay a ferociously pragmatic and shrewd small business owner waiting to attack at a moment's notice. A native New Jerseyan (ite?), Ryan found his home in Colorado from his college days near Fort Collins. He recalls coming from New Jersey and counting Miller Lite and Yuengling as his "local beers". With a chuckle, he noted that these were heady days when New Belgium and Odell Brewing were small (try getting a brewery tour now at this fabled breweries). So often were his visits to these local watering holes that he was soon allowed to take his family and friends on his own version of a brewery tour, pointing at mash tuns and fermentation tanks behind the glass. In our opinion, this continues to be the most attractive quality of a local brewery...a mental ownership of the business and its place in the community.
After his millionth visit to his favorite Colorado breweries, it was game over. He had to own a brewery (authors note - this next anecdote is probably our favorite part of the story). He walked into the local homebrew shop, bought his first extract kit, and then asked the shop's proprietor about the other equipment he needed to purchase. The shop was out of the necessary brewing equipment, but the owner told him to head over to Lowe's and grab a turkey friar. What a genius idea right? Ryan bought two (They were 20 bucks each...who wouldn't?) and literally turned himself into a brewer from there. Extract batches led to all-grain batches, and the beer affair got hot and heavy.
His wife, Christa, was (and is) a driving force behind the brewery in every possible way. She manages most of the administrative, marketing, and staffing duties for the brewery. It was her idea to name the brewery "Fiction", for their mutual love of literature. With a three-year old at their side, and another child on the way, Ryan and Christa are able to manage the brewery's success on an already-full plate of responsibilities.
A small business owner's head is never quite settled. Just like all of us trying to create something new, there's always something you could be considering. Fiction brewing is, according to Ryan, already exceeding his expectations. They've got plans to open their porch soon, which will double the current 70-person capacity. They'll need to get more fermentors as well. They'll need to figure out their staffing requirements. 1000 more ideas every 5 minutes, and only so much time in the day to make it happen. All in a day's work, and thank god that work produces some great beer.
And what about the beer? You'll obviously be checking that out yourself, but the brews coming out of Fiction are a nicely balanced grab bag of seasonally-inspired libations, stalwart classics, and the classic "whatever-sounds-good-to-me" approach. Have you tried the Asian Kit Kat inspired Green Tea Dark Chocoloate Stout? What about the Donut Porter inspired by the irreverent and wonderful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Whatever strikes your fancy, you'll probably get something you want at Fiction. Oh yeah...bring your kids too. They've got high chairs.
Our time speaking with Ryan about his new brewery was a refreshing reminder on what it takes to make a brewery work. Here's a guy with an undergrad in Psychology, one (almost two) children, and a full-time job outside the brewery. Both Ryan and Christa built a keen awareness of their community into the taproom, and can be counted on to support neighborhood events focused on literacy and reading. Make sure to stop in next time you're in the area.
Published in April 2015