Dillon Dam Brewery turns 20 | SummitDaily.com

Dillon Dam Brewery turns 20

Story and photos by Eli Pace
Bar master Johnny Burnette pours a beer Wednesday at the Dillon Dam Brewery. The largest brew-pub in the Colorado Rockies, and one of the largest employeers in Summit County, celebrates its 20th anniversary today.
Eli Pace / epace@summitdaily.com |

If you go

What: Dillon Dam Brewery 20th anniversary

Where: 100 Little Dam St., Dillon

When: 3-6 p.m. today

Info: There will be a happy hour birthday celebration with cake, the release of a new beer and commemorative T-shirts for sale. The Dam will also be offering a $20 seafood pasta dinner special from 5-10 p.m. Call 970-262-7777 or visit DamBrewery.com

Happy dam birthday.

It’s a story that began 20 years ago today — on Feb. 23, 1997 — when the Dillon Dam Brewery, the largest brew-pub in the Colorado Rockies, first opened its doors to paying customers. Two decades later, the homophonic play is going as strong as the brewery’s sales.

Perhaps, the word play is simply too good to pass up. Or perhaps, it’s the secret sauce, but regardless of its recipe for success, one thing is certain: The brew-pub that produces nearly 2,000 barrels of beer a year shows no signs of slowing down.

“It’s been a lot of dam work, but it’s been a lot of dam fun,” general manager Kim Nix said Wednesday as she and the staff got ready for today’s milestone celebration.

Nix was hired as a hostess 16 years ago. At the time, they had four beers on tap and the menu was four pages, she recalled. But time has a way of bringing about change, and the brewery — now with up to 18 beers on tap, a 10-page menu and Nix as a general manager — has seen its fair share.

“Things have just grown and grown for the better,” she said. “Everything is just bigger and busier.”

Nix credited the brewery’s longevity and growth to its customers and staff.

“Good people, good friendships, a good place, a good living,” she said of what the brewery means to her. “I’ve been here 16 years, and I can’t imagine working any other place in Summit County.”

A booming community hasn’t hurt either, she added, and Nix’s comments were echoed by George Blincoe, one of seven brewery owners, who all live in Summit County or Vail. He said he also believes the success of the brew-pub is a direct result of its staff — “everything starts with the staff” — and a solid core of regulars, whom Blincoe likes to call “good ol’ people.”

They have become ambassadors for the brewery, he continued, and without them, he’s not sure the brewery would have survived all these years, especially in such an expensive locale.

“We’re a neighborhood place, and our neighborhood is big,” Blincoe said. “It goes all the way to the East and West coasts, but the mountain community is how we stay busy. We think repeat business is everything.”

The years have been good to the brewery, Blincoe said, recalling how they opened in a standard building, nothing special, but pushed it out 12 to 16 feet on all four sides and increased the square footage from 5,000 to 9,000 square feet.

Also people might forget it, Blincoe said, but they opened the brewery at just about the same time the buddy ski pass came about.

“That really got the Denver people back to skiing,” he said, explaining how that growth in the ski industry translated into additional traffic for his business. “And it’s probably what caused the I-70 problem.”

But their best idea has to be the dam name, he admitted.

“I know we sell a lot of T-shirts, and we get a lot of visits because people enjoy saying, ‘It’s the best dam place I’ve been to,’” he said. “And we can say that we are the best dam place because nobody else has that.”

For its birthday, the Dillon Dam Brewery is tapping a brand-new beer today, a blackberry stout, in addition to offering specials, selling anniversary T-shirts and cutting cake. Staff is also big on a comedy lineup that’s on tap for today.

Also, while there are no specific plans yet, Nix said the brewery is looking to throw an even bigger party, in which former staff will be invited back, sometime in the spring, maybe late May or early June.

“We’ve had a great staff over 20 years and hopefully, some of them will come back to celebrate 20 years with us,” Nix said, adding that she’s excited to see what happens in the next 20 years and cracked a joke that will be good for at least one more.

“And to think, next year we’ll be 21, so we can drink finally,” she added.

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