Steep Brewing & Coffee Co. expands with 2nd Keystone taproom
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Replacing Spoon Cafe at 195 River Run Road is Steep’s second taproom. Though expanding this quickly wasn’t planned, Vail Resorts approached the brewery about the River Run Village unit and Steep owners Justin and Elissa Slezak couldn’t pass it up.
“It was an opportunity where we were pretty sure we wouldn’t get another one,” Elissa Slezak said.
The husband and wife team originally aimed for expanding the brewhouse with four more fermenters to go from a one-barrel to a seven-barrel brewing system. The increased output, which has been in the works since last spring, would have allowed the brewery to possibly start selling to restaurants and get a canning line down the road. Those distribution plans were put on pause in favor of the new spot.
“Everything happened for a reason, you could say,” said Justin Slezak, who comes from a commercial banking background and knows his way around steady growth.
Construction started in mid-September, and the Steep team essentially began from scratch by gutting the place and getting all new appliances. Despite some delivery delays, it opened less than two months later on Oct. 31 in time for ski season.
The second taproom has much of the trappings that the public knows and loves about the original location at 23110 U.S. Highway 6. There’s a chalkboard menu advertising the identical beer, cocktails and food options. Though the layout is roughly the same as Spoon’s, the mustard-colored walls have been painted, a metal bar installed and other items stained to match the original’s decor.
With a max capacity of 87 people, and the original holding 103, the space is a little smaller, yet River Run can add maybe about 25 to 30 people on the patio in nicer weather.
Quenching the thirst of those patrons are 12 taps — compared to the original’s 16 — and Steep plans to phase out guest taps from other breweries at both locations once they can keep up with demand.
However, there currently isn’t any coffee for sale at the new taproom, and brewing and roasting operations will stay where they are in the Gateway Mountain Lodge. Coffee will come May 1, and the Slezaks are working on purchasing a larger roaster, as well.
In August, Steep hired former Denver Beer Co. brewer Levi Peterson to help pivot from distributing to servicing the taproom’s added demand on the new equipment.
“We had to literally brew two beers, the next day too, and fill them all the way to the top to maximize as much as possible,” Justin Slezak said about the older brewing system. “It became extremely inefficient fairly quick. … We didn’t know how well the brewery was going to be received in Keystone.”
Another change at the new spot is a friendly skiing and riding competition. If someone has the most vertical feet logged by 4:30 p.m., they receive a free beer.
The second location is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Slezaks said the later hours will match with night skiing and the general busyness of the resort, and the location will be open earlier once coffee is added to the menu.
Other things to look forward to include collaboration beer releases, custom and by-the-slice pizzas, live music and trivia. The Gateway site just implemented trivia Monday, Dec. 6, and it happens weekly at 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 19 is Steep’s one-year anniversary, and the Slezaks are planning for a grand opening celebration around that time for the River Run taproom. On the menu is the Harvest Moon pumpkin spice chai brown ale, a chocolate stout and a winter warmer brewed with blackberry.
“It has some spices in it,” Justin Slezak said. “It’s more like brown ale, but a little bit of purpleish, because of the blackberries. … It’s fantastic.”
Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at email@example.com.
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