HighSide in Frisco brings number of breweries operating in Summit County up to eight
Summit County’s newest brewery came onto the scene Friday louder than a roaring Class V whitewater rapid.
Frisco’s HighSide brewery takes its name from the local rafting scene, and its leadership team is a confluence of experience with David Axelrod, co-founder of Broken Compass; Carrie Knose, who co-founded Living the Dream Brewing in Highlands Ranch; Breckenridge restaurateur Chris Galceran; Jason Wiedmaier, who founded Lone Tree Brewing Company before going to work for Broken Compass; Dave Simmons, formerly of Pug Ryan’s; and Kurt Zolbe, the brewery’s general manager who comes with deep connections to Summit County.
Together, they’re seeking to offer a wide range of beer, from the traditional to more experimental brews, and all points in between. They readily admit sometimes they might push the recipes a bit and then “have to HighSide.”
Generally speaking, highsiding is the act of using body weight to keep a raft from capsizing. In practice, it often means diving face-first onto Hypalon tubes getting pummeled by whitewater or about to crash into large boulders. Done property, it’s the difference between a successful run and going for a swim.
“Exactly,” Axelrod said. “We want to have a steady base of beers and appeal to the traditional folks, but we want to get out there and push the envelope, too. Sometimes, we’ll flip.”
One of the most popular brews so far has been the Cucumber IPA, but a Vienna lager and Baltic porter also made serious waves with thirsty patrons.
HighSide’s opening brings the number of breweries currently operating in Summit County up to eight with three openings within the last two years alone. The Outer Range Brewing Co. came onto the Frisco scene in December 2016, and the Angry James Brewery exploded on Silverthorne in January.
On Friday, it was HighSide’s turn, and in addition to the large crowd, many of the other breweries’ owners stopped in to congratulate the HighSide team and check out their new digs at the corner of Main Street and Summit Boulevard.
The opening itself came on short notice. A week before, the owners had been keeping their eager fans updated on social media and forecast a Thursday tapping. At 1:07 p.m. Friday afternoon, however, they posted a photo their business license and announced they would be opening at 4 p.m. that day with nine beers on tap and a live band from Chicago.
Word spread quick, and by 5 p.m., the house was absolutely packed.
“Super excited,” Axelrod said of his reaction to the warm response. “We were able to pull the band out of our hats at the last minute, and we just really felt super appreciative of everyone coming in and celebrating with us. It was fantastic.”
Based in Breckenridge, Broken Compass bought the Backcountry Brewery, originally opened in 1996, from brothers Charlie and Joe Eazor last fall, but the new owners remained tight-lipped about their plans.
In February, Axelrod split from his longtime partner, Jason Ford, at Broken Compass, based in Breckenridge, over a disagreement in the direction of the brewery. In the separation, Axelrod took control of the Frisco property while Ford remained with the brewery in Breckenridge.
By the end of the month, the HighSide Brewery had its name, based at least in part on Axelrod’s experience as a rafting guide, and the new management team began eying an opening perhaps as early as mid or late-April as they undertook a massive renovation effort inside the building.
Renovations continue upstairs, and Axelrod said they will know more about exactly what they’re going to do with the upstairs space as the new brewery continues to take shape.
Right now, he said they’re focusing on being a “positive member of the community” and creating a welcoming space with “the vibe” that makes people feel comfortable, whether it’s enjoying great beer, playing board games or just hanging out at the new brewery at the corner of Main Street and Summit Boulevard.
Axelrod also expects to have some food options at the brewery by this weekend, but he reiterated they’re a brewery that serves food, not a restaurant like it was before HighSide’s launch.
Axelrod also said they’re planning a ribbon cutting ceremony at HighSide on Friday, but will provide more details after they’ve nailed down a time for the event.
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