It’s no secret that the craft beer industry is thriving in the U.S. In 2013, the industry experienced an 18 percent growth, according to the Brewers Association. It turns out that Summit County is no stranger to this trend, with four established breweries — Dillon Dam Brewery, Pug Ryan’s Brewing Company, Backcountry Brewery and Breckenridge Brewery — and a fifth, Broken Compass Brewing, that celebrated its opening weekend this month.
And it doesn’t stop there. Cory Forster, formerly the head brewmaster at the Dillon Dam Brewery, is planning to open the doors to his own brewpub this fall.
The Bakers’ Brewery
Forster found what he believes is the perfect location in Silverthorne — the former Village Inn restaurant, overlooking Interstate 70.
“We feel great about the neighborhood, and the response that we’ve gotten has just been amazing,” said Forster.
The “we” refers to his co-founder, Stefanie Sadler, a local small-business entrepreneur and homebrewer.
Forster and Sadler had their ideas for a brewpub independently — each with a cadre of backers — then decided to combine forces. The two met when Sadler entered the Dillon Dam Brewery’s homebrewer competition several years ago and she won the experimental category.
The name Bakers’ Brewery came from an idea that Forster has had for years.
“One of my good long-term friends from back in Minnesota owns a bakery and he makes some amazing sourdough breads,” Forster said. “Many years ago, we had already started talking about how we should open a brewery up and we should have homemade breads and make these awesome sandwiches on this awesome bread that he bakes.”
They’ve made plans for him to come to Summit County to train the bakers on how to replicate his breads at high altitude.
“A big portion of the menu is definitely focused on the fresh homemade bread,” Forster said.
They plan to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with plenty of on-the-go options from the deli counter up front. There will be a long bar, with beetlekill wood elements, and then a side bar that will face the brewery equipment. The four fermenters will be visible through glass, “like soldiers in a row,” Forster explained. The rest of the restaurant will be taken up by seating, with an emphasis on the view of Buffalo Mountain and Red Mountain across the valley.
No changes have been made yet to the interior. The floor, walls, ceiling and color scheme are still as the Village Inn left them, but that doesn’t matter to Forster. It’s all going to change, and he walks around with the vision of the future already in his head. He points out elements of the bar along the bare white walls, where the tables and people will go in empty spaces that, in a few months, will likely be bustling with movement.
He also gets excited when talking about the team of people who will help to make the place a reality, from his fellow brewers to the bakers, waiters and cooking staff.
“I feel like that’s a big part of what is going to make the Bakers’ Brewery successful,” he said. “The artists in all of us that are putting this together.”
The bakers’ beer
Forster has plenty of ideas for the beer that will be made on site.
“One of the new pushes that’s happening in the brewing industry is session beers,” he said. He calls it a “gateway beer” for people just getting into craft brews, neither bitterly hoppy like an IPA nor sweetly malted like a stout.
“I’ve been thinking about an imperial red ale fermented on a Belgian yeast,” he mused, “where the fruity hops and the fruity yeast esters can kind of play together.”
The brewery will also be a place to taste the latest and greatest of Summit County’s homebrew efforts.
“We’re also going to have a small batch system so we can experiment. We have several homebrewers who are investors in this as well so it will be fun to bring some of their recipes in and brew them in a 12-gallon batch and have a 1-keg test batch of some stuff,” Forster said. “Obviously, we’ll turn those over pretty quick most of the time and it will keep things fun and exciting for the guests too, and keep people coming back to see what’s new on the tap.”
Sadler said she would probably try her hand at some experimental beers in the future.
“Collectively (the homebrewers) will be able to provide inspiration for new, different beers that no one’s ever had before,” she said.
As a farewell gesture, the Dillon Dam Brewery came out with its Buh-Bye Barleywine, which head brewmaster Mike Bennett wrote is a “hoppy tribute” to Forster and the time he spent at the brewery.
Bennett and Forster have been friends for around 17 years. At the Dam Brewery, Bennett worked a variety of jobs, eventually coming beneath the management of former brewmaster Matt Luhr and then Forster, working his way up to assistant brewmaster.
Bennett said he learned a lot from Forster, and has plenty of memorable moments attending beer festivals, particularly the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. He recalled something that Forster would always say to him — which Luhr had said to Forster before — if a mistake had been made: ‘Well, I guess you’re not going to do that again!’
Bennett laughed. “He was always pretty patient with me and didn’t get too fired up over much.”
Forster said he’s enjoyed watching the Dam Brewery’s progress under Bennett.
“Mike and JJ took over in the middle of January already and they’ve kept a strong lineup of awesome beers on tap all winter long through the ski season. They’re kicking some butt over there. The Dam beer is very good.”
Bennett, for his part, is awaiting what the Bakers’ Brewery will bring to the table.
“I’m looking forward to having another brewery to go drink at when I get off work,” he said with a laugh. “The more good beer we have in Summit County the better. I’m looking forward to it.”
More work to be done
Though the brewery is far from finished, it’s already come a long way from scribbles in Sadler’s and Foster’s notebooks.
They hope to host the grand opening in the fall of this year, with a lineup of collaboration beers with breweries across the state. Despite all the hard work, Forster is excited to begin his dream project in one of his favorite places.
“I love Summit County,” he said. “This is my 20th year here. I still absolutely love where I live.”