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Rocky Mountain Roundup : Working Up A Steam
By Marty Jones


Steamworks Brewing Co.
442 Wolverine Dr.
Bayfield, CO 81122

Arctic Craft Brewery
2506 Platte Pl.
Colorado Springs, CO 80909

Shamrock Brewing Co.
108 West Third St.
Pueblo, CO 81003


Down in the southwest corner of Colorado, things are heating up with Steamworks Brewing Company. The outfit (started in 1996 in Durango) opened its second location last April in Bayfield, Colo., some 20 miles east of Durango. General Manager Jason Keirns said the house has served as many as 18 of its beers at one time and typically hosts four to six in-house beers.

John Hiiva heads up the brewing in Bayfield. His big sellers are Steamworks’s award-winning Steam Engine Lager (a California common beer) and Engineer Light Lager (a Munich-Helles-style beer). Hiiva’s other draft staples are a red ale, a kolsch, an oatmeal stout and a pale ale. Occasional guest beers include offerings from the “Bootleggers Society” — a loose-knit group of area brewers from Steamworks, Ska Brewing Company, Carver’s Brewing Company and Durango Brewing who have been collaborating on unique beers.

One of their recent creations was a beer enhanced with fruit from the prickly pear cactus. Steamworks’s other brewery collaborations include a joint mug club venture with Ska, Carver’s and Three Rivers Brewing (in Farmington, N.M.).

The joint efforts are aimed at helping each partner win over fans from the mainstream market. “It’s not us against the other guys,” Keirns said of Steamworks's views of its market. “It’s us against the big guys, the Buds and the SABMillers. Right now we’re really developing the idea that this is a great brewing region.”

The brewpub is a smaller version of the original Durango location. It seats 120 people, compared with Durango’s 400-seat capacity. In addition to producing hand-crafted beer and food, Keirns said the pub is helping Steamworks expand its off-premise sales. The brewpub’s 30-barrel system and four 60-barrel fermenters are filling 12-ounce bottles of Steam Engine Lager and Engineer Light that are being shipped up and down the Western Slope of Colorado. The bottled beers are also heading to New Mexico, thanks to a distribution deal Steamworks has inked with National Distributors in New Mexico. “We’re really poised to take off. We’re very excited,” Keirns said.

The joint efforts are aimed at helping each partner win over fans from the mainstream beer market.

Colorado Springs has a new microbrewery, the draft-only Arctic Craft Brewery. Founder and Head Brewer John Dunfee opened his place in May of 2004, but he shut down a few months later after losing a few of the tap handles he had secured. He has now hired a news salesperson and found a new partner and an assistant brewer, Tom Brown, a local homebrewer turned working brewer. “Tom just happened to stop in for a visit on the right day,” Dunfee said, laughing. Dunfee’s new salesperson is scouring the Springs area for draft lines.

Dunfee’s company name stems from his other enterprise, Arctic Insulation, also in the Springs. “I wanted to start a brewery a long time ago,” Dunfee said, “but it was cheaper to get into the insulation business.” Colorado Springs residents can try the company’s beers by stopping in on Friday nights when the brewery’s 12-seat tasting room is open from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m. To-go growlers are available on Fridays. Dunfee’s top sellers on his beer list are his Red Fox Raspberry Wheat Ale and Northern Lights, a vanilla porter.

Colorado Springs’ Palmer Lake Brewing (the beer-making half of The Warehouse restaurant) is in limbo. The restaurant’s management recently decided to suspend its brewing operations, leaving brewer Alan Stiles out of a job. At press time, the restaurant/brewpub had brought Stiles back to brew a few batches of beer, but the fate of the brewing operations seems shaky. Stiles has taken on a full-time gig with a new Pueblo brewpub that will open in the old home of the Irish Pub. Now going through an extensive remodeling, the late-1800s building is set to open as Shamrock Brewing Company in May. Stiles said he’ll brew a stout, an Irish red, a blond ale and seasonal brews at Shamrock, which is owned by Sean Sanborn. He will be brewing occasional brews at Palmer Lake, too, while they either find a new brewer or end their brewing operations.

The first Colorado Brewers Guild’s Firkin Festival took place on February 26 at Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs. Bristol’s Jason Yester reported that the festival drew 100 firkin people who enjoyed a dozen cask beers from Guild members. Yester said the best firkin beer there was from Wynkoop Brewing Company’s new brewer, Tom Larson. His gem was dubbed Seven Year Itch and was a blend of seven vintages of barley wine blended and aged in an oak barrel. Rockies Brewing Company’s casked Mojo IPA was another highlight. The event served as the finale for the Rocky Mountain Micro Symposium, which kicked off earlier in the week.

Avery Brewing Company has released another amped-up creation, Maharaja Imperial India Pale Ale. It weighs in at 9.7% abv, has 112 IBUs and is available in 22-ounce bombers.

On the heels of a new Colorado law that allows beer, wine and spirits tastings in retail stores, Denver’s city government has initiated steps to allow the tastings. (The state law requires cities to opt in for the tastings.) Denver aims to launch a six-month trial of the tastings, which are already under way in a couple dozen Colorado localities.

Marty Jones is a Denver freelance writer and leader of Marty Jones & the Pork Boilin’ Poor Boys, Colorado’s kings of bash-grass and drunky-tonk. Got beer news from the Rocky Mountain region? Contact him via email.


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