Brewery Immersion in Colorado - Part 1

A 6-hour drive does not suck when it means 6 hours of radio without toddler-music, beautiful scenery and a destination you have been waiting half a year to reach.  Last week I flew into Salt Lake City and then drove immediately to the tiny town of Ouray, Colorado, which is where I stayed for the 3 day Brewery Immersion Course.  I slept like crap the night before the first day, which can be chalked up to excitement and my body being unable to handle the 7800’ elevation.  I arrived promptly at 8am at the Colorado Boy Brewery, at which point I somehow dropped my phone into my latte, fizzling the speaker.  Luckily, things improved from there.

Tom Hennessy, the man in charge, has opened 6 of his own breweries, as well as multiple successful restaurants.  He has also assisted in the opening of dozens of other breweries through the course that he teaches.  Finally, his beers have won 7 awards at the Great American Beer Festival, which is the Oscars of beer.  With those credentials, I am very comfortable in saying that this guys knows what he is doing.  He teaches the course once per month to one person (or partners) so that he can effectively assist/consult his pupils through the brewery planning and building-out process after the actual class ends.  In other words, while the course is 3 days, Tom’s involvement with your brewery keeps going until you are up and running.

A scene from the road, the Colorado Boy Brewery and Tom's GABF medals.

A scene from the road, the Colorado Boy Brewery and Tom's GABF medals.

Within 5 minutes of walking in the door, we were talking about my concept - A brewery that focuses largely on lager beers, with a tap room.  He is happy to hear that A. I have an idea what I want to do (apparently that is not always the case) B.  It is something unique that will set Wild Parrot apart (Very few breweries in the country focus on lagers).  He immediately starts jotting down a list of equipment along with costs.  My phone is still dripping latte and we are already talking costs!!   The basics we came up with were this:

  • The brewery will be a 15bbl system, with much of the equipment coming from overseas

  • Initial brewing equipment estimate ~$80k (plenty of assumptions go into this number and this is obviously not a system where brewing = pushing buttons)

  • Sales will be driven nearly entirely through the tap room to maximize income.  Distribution comes later (especially important given the high cost of producing lagers)

Over the course of the 3 days, we refined (read : increased) costs for the equipment and developed some alternatives (read : less expensive ways) for how to get this thing off the ground.  The big unknown costs are what kind of infrastructure will be needed, and that is location dependent, so that is where the alternatives come into the equation.  This discussion needs more detail, so I will get more into it next post.  I will be doing a few more posts on actual brewery work at Colorado Boy and the next steps we came up with.  

Closing thought - There are 6 breweries in the Ouray-Ridgway-Montrose metroplex, with a combined population of 19,000.  Pasadena has about 140,000 people and 1 brewery.