Summit Suds: Breweries collaborate to save the arts

Broken Compass Brewing and Breckenridge Brewery & Pub have joined the national collaborative fundraiser Curtain Up. Broken Compass made a hazy India pale ale that is 7.1% alcohol by volume for the project.
Photo from Jason Ford / Broken Compass Brewing

One of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic has been live entertainment. Beer lovers and Broadway actors Jimmy Ludwig and Mark Aldrich of The Happy Hour Guys have witnessed the impact firsthand. The pair partnered with Gun Hill Brewing Co. in the Bronx to start a collaborative fundraiser that supports both of their passions.

Called Curtain Up, the initiative donates beer sales to The Actors Fund — a national organization that serves all professionals in the entertainment industry with financial, career, health and housing assistance — and other groups that help those affected by the shutdown.

Breckenridge Brewery & Pub and Broken Compass Brewing are the first Colorado breweries to join over 50 others around the country. Each pour from the local breweries, whether it is from a can or on draft, sees $1 go to The Actors Fund and Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.

“Broken Compass has been a sponsor of Backstage Theatre for a couple years now,” owner Jason Ford said. “We provide the beer for those guys, and that’s our sponsorship. It was an easy decision and a no-brainer for us to be able to do this with Breck Brewery and all of the other breweries around the nation that are doing this, as well. Plus, you get to make beer and have fun with it.”

Curtain Up is a national fundraiser to raise money for The Actors Fund and other arts organizations. Local sales will benefit Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.
Photo by Elaine Collins

Neither brewery is a stranger to philanthropy. Breckenridge’s Boochie Mama donated money toward a scholarship for women in the Beer Industry Program at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Broken Compass had proceeds from a barrel-aged beer go to the nationwide Black is Beautiful collaboration last year.

While Gun Hill made a standard hazy India pale ale recipe available to participants, breweries are free to put their own spin on it. Breckenridge, which launched its IPA on March 1, followed the recipe somewhat closely, though it decided to switch the hops and go with a session IPA that’s lower in alcohol by volume for the style. Rather than the suggested 6% ABV, the beer is 5.1% ABV.

Breckenridge Brewery sourced the hops — Cascade and Comet — from Billy Goat Hop Farms in Montrose. The farm’s hops were also used when Breckenridge made a Resilience beer to aide Australian bushfire relief efforts with Cascade, Chinook and Nugget hops. Head Brewer Jimmy Walker was originally skeptical since the ingredients didn’t come from the Pacific Northwest like most hops, but he was pleasantly surprised by the quality.

“They make great hops, and I want to spread the word to others in the county,” he said.

The beer is fruity on the nose like most hazy IPAs thanks to the hops’ aromas. It’s juicy and then a bit tart at first sip. Then the lower ABV helps bring it home with a dry, almost wine-like finish.

Broken Compass went in the opposite direction with its offering that was released a little earlier in February. The brewery went bigger and bolder with lots of oats, wheat and the recipe’s suggested Citra, Centennial Cryo, Azacca and Amarillo hops to raise the ABV to a flavorful 7.1%.

The beer definitely has a fuller body and sweeter finish thanks to the increased ingredients. It also appears darker and cloudier in the glass. When comparing them side by side, I found the Broken Compass beer to be a bit mellower and without the same zing I encountered in the Breckenridge version; however, it’s hard to tell how much of that was from a loss of carbonation due to sampling it at home via a growler.

But with the pineapple juice-like richness naturally comes more alcohol, so caution is required.

Regardless of the differences, both are worth trying to support the businesses and the arts. Walker said he’d hear customers wrongly think of Broken Compass as competition, especially since the brewery expanded with a new taproom on Main Street, but they are actually friends.

“We collaborate a lot more than just official collaborations,” Walker said. “We share a lot of knowledge and techniques and recipes and ingredients when we need them.”

Breckenridge Brewery & Pub’s Curtain Up beer is a session India pale ale that is 5.1% alcohol by volume. The beer is available in cans and on draft. Photo from Jimmy Walker / Breckenridge Brewery & Pub

Curtain Up is available on draft and in 16-ounce cans and 32-ounce crowlers at Breckenridge Brewery’s Main Street pub. Its Littleton location has it on draft and in crowlers. Broken Compass isn’t canning Curtain Up, so it can be consumed only on-site at Airport Road and Main Street on draft or taken to-go in growlers.

Because venues are still shut down with no estimated time of reopening, the fundraising project doesn’t have a goal or deadline. Breweries instead are encouraged to continue making the beer when possible to help out. Ford said future iterations likely would benefit other local artists and organizations.

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