In speaking to the five brewmasters of Summit, I may just have stumbled upon the five best jobs in the county.
The brewmasters live and work in the laid-back world of beer; and they are a view into the heart of the microbrew industry.
Bill Kiester, brewmaster for the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, traded in his high-tech corporate job for the low-tech fun of brewing about 10 years ago. David Simmons, who runs the brewery at Pug Ryan's in Dillon, just got back from a job-related trip to Germany where he visited long-running breweries and the original Oktoberfest in Munich. Brewmaster for Keystone's Wolf Rock Brewing Co. Cory Forster spent the weekends of the last two months at various beer festivals promoting his beverages.
Not to mention all these guys get to taste beer for a living.
"It's the best job I ever had," said Drake Schmid, brewmaster at the Breckenridge Brewery. "I make people happy all day."
The Associated Press recently reported that Colorado passed up California as the No. 1 beer-producing state with 23.3 million barrels this year.
While microbreweries only account for about 10 percent of the state's beer production, according to a story in The Denver Post " their creativity and products could be making an impact.
"Craft beer is now a vital part of American culture," said Charlie Papazian, Great American Beer Festival founder, and president of the Brewers Association, in a press release.
Unlike their corporate counterparts, microbreweries have the opportunity to create and craft new flavors constantly.
Over at Wolf Rock Brewing in Keystone, they were mixing up a full-strength Scottish ale this week.
The brewers at the Breckenridge Brewery recently concocted a sweet agave wheat beer. There's not enough room at the Breck location for all the beer that is demanded, so the overflow is made at a brewery they built in Denver. Schmid said they already sold out of the new recipe locally, but that it's being made in the city now. This week, assistant brewmaster Matt Darling was working on a Molson-type brew.
According to the Associated Press story, studies estimate the beer industry contributes $12.4 billion to Colorado's economy yearly. In Summit County, locally made beer can be a draw.
"When people go on vacations, a lot of them look for the local brewpub," Forster said.
A New Belgium spokesman said in the AP story that Rocky Mountain water is a likely cause for the volume of beer produced in Colorado. Others opine that it matches the lifestyle here.
Forster said he thinks people who move out to Colorado have things in common, one of which is a "taste for a hearty beer."
Backcountry Brewer Kiester thinks with their high amount of education, it's the choices that Coloradans go for.
But it doesn't all stay in Colorado. In Fort Collins, New Belgium Brewing Co. supplies beer to 17 states, while Anheuser Busch, maker of Budweiser, supplies to 13 states, according to the AP.
Summit County's brewpubs make beer for their pubs, so the beverages stay here in the county.
The Great American Beer Festival coming up next weekend in Denver, will be a testing ground for new creations, as well as a continuance of awards for the tried and true brews.
The Morning Wood Wheat is Pug Ryan's most famous brew. But it's Simmons' own recipe, the Pallavicini Pilsner, that wins the most awards.
"My pilsner is my baby," he said. "I've been working on it since I became brewmaster. It took me two years; we decided to keep on tap because I love it."
Leslie Brefeld can be reached at (970) 668-4626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge " 1,200 barrels (made on-site)
- Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon " 2,263 barrels
- Backcountry Brewery in Frisco " 875 barrels
- Wolf Rock Brewing in Keystone " 400 barrels
- Pug Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery in Dillon " 800 barrels
- Coors Brewing Company in Golden " 20 million
* There are two kegs in a barrel
The 26th Great American Beer Festival is Oct. 11-13 at the Denver Convention Center. More than 1,789 beers will be available for tasting, representing 402 American breweries. Winners for 2007 will be announced Saturday afternoon. Visit www.GreatAmericanBeerFestival.com for more information or tickets.