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When New Belgium Brewing started a small business in the depths of Denver in 2018, their mission was to find new customers and gain a foothold. A small, glass-enclosed room at the Source Hotel was intended to produce experimental and barrel-aged beers that the Fort Collins brewery could expand and serve in Woods, the hotel’s upscale rooftop restaurant.
But a lot has changed. In 2019 the mothership was bought by the Kirin beer conglomerate, and in 2020 the pandemic hit and closed bars, restaurants and breweries across the country. Now, in mid-2021, New Belgium’s little pilot in Denver is still out there, but its ongoing mission has changed and the two breweries that run it need to find a way to connect with the city and find a new one Finding life on your own.
“We have somehow swiveled and are now more of an independent unit trying to focus more on Colorado,” says brewer Isaac Koski, who runs the ten-barrel system at the Source Hotel together with his brewing colleague Hal Doss. “But we realized that we had to find a better way to get some income and get to work for us. … We saw what was going on around the can selling and thought that would be the only way to survive.”
The ten-barrel system in the Source Hotel.
New Belgian brewery Bre
During the pandemic, craft breweries were trying to figure out how to make ends meet with to-go sales alone – the result of restrictions that kept draft sales to an absolute minimum. This applied to both the brewery’s taprooms and restaurants like The Woods and some of the pilot brewery’s other customers, which include almost all of the restaurants in the Source Hotel and Source Market Hall next door, along with other restaurants like Super Mega Bien, Work & Class, Brass Tacks, and Sloan’s Lake Tap & Burger.
Like dozens of other Colorado breweries, Koski and Doss decided to buy a small canning machine – in this case from Codi Manufacturing, a specialist in canning lines in Golden. “We ran a few small editions,” says Doss, including some bespoke beers (Blunt Man Hazy IPA and Chronic Lager) for Mooby’s, Kevin Smith’s latest clerk-themed fast food pop-up in Denver, and Love Conquers Ale. a collaboration with the Boston Beer Company.
But on July 9th, New Belgium at the Source will be releasing its first flagship beer, Queen City Haze, a New England-style IPA brewed with Citra and Galaxy hops, as well as Mosaic cryo hops. Customers can order it online and then pick it up at the brewery when Koski and Doss are around. “We’re throwing out a banner and there’s a big garage door that we can roll up that has faces” [Brighton Boulevard]”Says Doss.
New Belgium’s brewery has a garage door overlooking Brighton Boulevard.
The Source Hotel
After that, the brewers plan to bring out a new can of beer once a month while they watch sales go through. If they do well, they will make more publications.
In addition, they are again brewing many beers on tap for the Woods and other customers. Some of the recent brews included a strawberry guava sour, dark lager, west coast style IPA, German Helles, and Sunshine Wheat, a small-batch version of one of New Belgium’s now-discontinued flagships. “We’ve had full tanks for the past few weeks. In fact, we can’t make enough beer,” says Doss.
“We have autonomy in what we do, so we do our own thing,” adds Koski. They also do every other job in the brewery, including selling cans and kegs, and delivering and sourcing raw materials – although this usually involves a trip to Fort Collins. “It’s like a small brewery,” he says, “but we can get good hops.”
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Jonathan Shikes is from Denver and writes about business and beer for Westword.