Summit Suds: Dillon Dam Brewery, Broken Compass Brewing hire new head brewers |

Summit Suds: Dillon Dam Brewery, Broken Compass Brewing hire new head brewers

Head brewer and brewery manager J.J. Miles flashes a smile while at work Friday, Oct. 4, at Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon.
Liz Copan /

Kegs get kicked, seasonals rotate and sometimes breweries close. Change is inevitable in the beer industry, but it’s not always bad. Worth celebrating is the recent shuffling of staff at the Dillon Dam Brewery and Broken Compass Brewing.

Patrons shouldn’t fear the change either, as both local breweries will continue to brew and serve the same staples they know and love. 

Dillon Dam Brewery

After working at the Dillon Dam Brewery for 12 years, JJ Miles has taken the helm as head brewer and brewery manager. The Massachusetts native moved to Summit County from California in 1994. While making his initial trek west, his car actually broke down in Summit, and he decided to come back a year later.

During the day, he’d take care of his sons, Keenan and Finn, while his wife, Jen, worked, and then he would bartend at night in Frisco. 

“Once my youngest kid was ready to go to preschool,” Miles said, “I needed to work somewhere in the day and decided to come to the Dam Brewery because they were always busy, and it looked like a great place to work.”

Miles started as a waiter, then transitioned to the bottling line and cleaned kegs. He became the assistant brewer six years ago when Cory Forster founded The Bakers’ Brewery.

A couple of Miles’ favorite beers made during his tenure include the High Speed Quad, a cleverly named Belgian quadruple ale that references ski lifts, and the Spruce Tips India pale ale inspired by Christmas trees.

“We’ve got 22 years of brewery tradition here at the dam, and I hope to continue making the great beers and providing a full rainbow of all of the beers for all palates,” Miles said.

Head brewer Mike Bennett poses for a photo at Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan /

Broken Compass Brewing

Miles replaced former head brewer Mike Bennett, who is now the head brewer at Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge. A Georgia transplant living in the county for 22 years, Bennett took the reins from Brandon Smith, who previously worked with owner Jason Ford at the taproom for three years.

“I have a wide variety of interests, and I geek out on just about anything,” Bennett said about his love of brewing. “It’s a very eclectic occupation. It can be artistic, but it could be business, and it could be science.”

A fan of IPAs, Bennett is responsible for the brewery’s popular Here’s Your Dam IPA, various New England IPAs and other seasonal beers such as the Peach Hefeweizen and Farmhouse Blonde Ale.

Though Bennett enjoyed his time at the Dam, he made the career switch to focus more on the brewing. Dillon Dam Brewery is a pub with a full kitchen and bar, but Broken Compass Brewing is only a taproom.

“When you take (distribution) and the restaurant out of the equation, it’s just focusing on the culture and creation of good beer,” Bennett said.

Like the Dam, Bennett wants to keep making a wide variety of beers to please the palates of his customers. The Coconut Porter and Ginger Pale Ale won’t go anywhere, yet customers might see a few more IPAs pop up as well as a chocolate pumpkin beer currently in the works.

“I enjoy playing around with different hops,” Bennett said. “Especially these days, they’re coming out with new variety of hops that give different qualities that you weren’t able to get as much in the past.”

Brandon Smith, former head brewer at Broken Compass Brewing, stands inside Orange Hat Brewing Co. in Knoxville, Tennessee. Smith recently became the new head brewer at Orange Hat, which plans to open up this winter.
Courtesy Brandon Smith

Orange Hat Brewing

Meanwhile, Smith has moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, to join a brewery that is still under construction. Called Orange Hat Brewing, the brewery in the Hardin Valley area plans to open later this winter.

Smith and his wife are originally from rural Kansas and wanted to return to a similar lifestyle offered by the new locale. He’s lived in Colorado for about a decade, and before joining Broken Compass he spent time at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco, Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, and he even made cider and kombucha for Big B’s in Hotchkiss.

Now, with a 15-month-old child of his own, Smith is excited to be at a community-oriented taproom. 

“With us having a young family, it’s very cool to see that and help be a part of that,” Smith said. “It’s kid friendly and everybody can show up with their families in a safe place, have a beer and meet friends.”

He’s also looking forward to craft easy-drinking lagers and pilsners like the ones he did at Broken Compass and take Summit County’s collaborative nature with him.

“I love the brotherhood of Colorado beer, and I’m very excited to bring some of that to Tennessee.”

Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Everything Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at

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