Broken Compass in Breckenridge acquires new brewer
May 20, 2016
Jason Wiedmaier was no stranger to Broken Compass before signing on to be a fellow brewer at the company in February. The Missouri native has known co-owner Jason Ford for the last eight years. And it goes even further than that — Wiedmaier actually taught the Breckenridge brewery's owner how to home brew back in the day when Ford and his wife lived in Denver.
"Funny thing is, I was here since before anything was in here," Wiedmaier said, looking around at the inside of the building, now full of guests, brew tanks and Broken Compass paraphernalia along the walls. "I'd come up and visit, and they'd ask advice, because I'd been through all of this. … I was up here somewhat frequently, checking the progress. I was excited for them. It kind of feels like I have been here since the beginning, even though I came in almost two years in, it's been fun to see it grow."
A self-taught brewer, Wiedmaier has been working in the industry for about 12 years. He co-founded Lone Tree Brewing right outside of Denver four years ago, and was the head brewer there before his recent transition. Because Broken Compass continues to grow since its opening two years ago, Ford and co-owner David Axelrod were looking for another brewer to add to the force, and Wiedmaier said he was ready for a new challenge.
"The wife and I decided it was time for a change," he said. "I love the beer they are making up here; I love the vibe. My wife and I love Breckenridge."
A PASSION FOR CRAFT BEER
Wiedmaier first started home brewing after his parents bought him a kit at the age of 21. As someone who was studying German in college and came from a mostly German family, beer was in his blood.
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"If you are into German, you better like beer," he said. "If you don't like beer, and you're studying German, you are going to have some problems. You are going to miss out on some cultural elements."
After spending some time in Germany and then returning to Missouri, Wiedmaier felt there was a lack of beer selection in the state. It was then that he really started getting into crafting his own brews so he could have the types of beers he enjoyed most.
After college, Wiedmaier moved from Missouri to Colorado to earn his master's degree. Growing up, he had family that lived in the state and knew it was where he eventually wanted to end up, so he enrolled in graduate school at University of Colorado Boulder. After receiving his master's, he began teaching full time at Aurora public schools while continuing to home brew as a hobby. In 2004, the owner of Brew Hut — a liquor store Wiedmaier frequented — decided to open a small brewery in the back of his shop, and asked Wiedmaier to help him out. For the next seven years, the teacher also worked at the brewery, which in 2005 became Dry Dock Brewing Co.
"I got to see him do everything," he said. "In 2009 they won small brewing company of the year at Great American Beer Fest, and things just kind of exploded."
In 2009 the company hired Bill Eye, a professional brewer from C.B. Potts, and Wiedmaier said he was able to learn even more about the industry from this man who had become his mentor.
His passion for brewing continued to grow, and he immersed himself in the industry any chance he could, whether through books or talking to industry professionals. He started receiving positive feedback about his beers from other brewers in the area, and he started formulating the idea of pursuing it full time. His dad's parents owned a restaurant growing up, and his mom's owned a bakery, so he was familiar with the food and beverage industry. It was 2010 when he decided to jump in with both feet.
He found a business partner and location, and did a summer internship at Golden City Brewing Company, eventually opening up Lone Tree Brewing in December 2011. He was able to quit his teaching gig at the end of the 2011-12 school year and commit to craft brews full time.
BROKEN COMPASS BREWS
Wiedmaier has nothing but great things to say about Broken Compass and its team and says his experience as a brewer with the company has been nothing short of amazing so far.
"Up here, there's great beer, a great town, and great local support," he said. "The amount of beer that we are going through just in this room is pretty amazing to me."
Wiedmaier's speciality is lagers, and he plans to start adding those to the menu. He looks forward to the expansion of Broken Compass — the owners recently put money down on some property near Breckenridge Distillery and plan to build an extension to the brewery by the end of 2017.
"With where we are going in the future with expansion, I've been through that — many times," Wiedmaier said. "They kind of hired me as brewer slash consultant as far as that goes."
This will give them more space and more tanks to brew even more beer and more varieties, such as a lager, which takes a minimum of 28 days, unlike other brews, which take more like two weeks. He'd like to see four lagers on the lineup as well as a pilsner and Oktoberfest lager during that part of the year.
If you had asked Wiedmaier six years ago what types of beers he likes to brew, he would have called himself a traditionalist. He perfected each and every recipe, brewing it again and again, changing one small thing at a time. He says he still does this, and values the tactic, but has also started to become more experimental over the last two years.
" At some point — and definitely I'm not perfect — at some point you get through a lot of beers and you're like, OK, there's not anymore tweaking I can do to these, this is as good as I can possibly make this," he said. "We won Great American Beer Fest medals at Lone Tree. … What else can I do? And then you also have to pay attention to what people want."
He said more and more people are looking for more experimental beers, and wanting to always try something new.
"I consider myself a foodie as well, and just as that's changing and I don't think there is any going back in that realm, I think it's the same thing with beer."
He has been able to experiment with his creative side lately with "Wacky Wednesdays," offering a different, sort of off-the-wall-type beer each week, such as a peanut butter banana Hefeweizen, mango pale ale, mandarin orange IPA and peanut butter raspberry stout. He said they've been making 5-gallon batches each week, and have been selling out early in the day.
"It's a bit of a challenge to incorporate some crazy ingredients into beer, and see if you can pull it off," he said. "That's been a lot of fun to have this creative outlet."
He has plenty of plans in the works for new recipes, and has high hopes for the expansion. He always has beer on the brain, but says so far, his favorite aspect of working at Broken Compass is the people.
"You can make great beer, and you can have a great brew house, and all that stuff, but if you don't like the people that you work with every day, it's the same as any other job. … Everybody up here has a great vibe, and they all believe in it, or they wouldn't be here, which is pretty cool."
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