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Telluride Brewing: Making Beer in Majesty

by Tim Jerding

I moved to Colorado in August of 2012, and was soon hired to work at Bonfire Brewing in Eagle (hey Bonfire!). I wasn’t to begin work until October, so I decided to road trip with my first destination being the San Juan mountain range in the southwest part of the state. The majesty of those mountains and the small towns that were nestled in them left a deep impression on me. Crested Butte, Durange, Silverton, Ourey, and of course, Telluride were all charming in their own right. After two nights of camping, I was off to Utah.

Telluride, CO

Soon after getting ankle deep in spent grain and dirty kegs at Bonfire, I learned of Telluride Brewing and their Face Down Brown Ale. What a beer! Chocolately, roasty, and something one can keep coming back to. Trying this beverage for the first time brought me right back to my recent visit in the San Juans. These guys made a beer that represented their environment so well.

After several years in the industry, I’ve landed here at the Mr. B’s beer department. My initial opinion of Telluride’s beers remains unchanged, and the folks over there are super kind to boot.

A couple months back (sorry about my delay to publish, Fish!), I exchanged some emails with owner and brew master Chris Fish about the beer business, his beer, and the San Juan mountains. The following is that exchange:

Where, what, and who did you get your initial inspiration to make beer?

My dad exposed me to some imports at a young age like Guinness and Newcastle that really opened up my mind to the possibility of flavors beyond American Standard Lager. I mean beer could have flavor! By the end of high school I was getting my hands on Sierra Nevada, Pete’s Wicked and some of the 1st Bombers from New Belgium. I was hooked! As soon as I moved out of my folks house at 18, I found out that I could go to the home brew store and buy beer ingredients with no ID! I could make my own beer!

How do the San Juan mountains influence what you want to make?

I moved to Telluride for the outdoor lifestyle. The snow, the rivers, and live music are what inspire me! So, I use all of my loves to inspire my brews. I like to imagine what would pair perfectly with things that I love to do. What would I want to drink after a huge back country tour in on my split board? What do I want in my hand when I am rowing my raft?

You have a solid core line-up. How much experimentation do you do and will Telluride Brewing start distributing some of these experiments?

We do experiment but not enough! Our Brewery has been maxed out basically since we opened! Every time we have added capacity our core line up absorbs it! In the off season we are able to play some but all of that is sold on draft. We have not been able to package our experimental one offs! We need a new brewery!

How much barrel production do you project this year? What are the long-term goals production and distribution wise?

I think we will do about 8000 bbls this year, up from about 7000 last year. Our long term goal is to build a new brewery! We cannot keep up here, and I want to be able to explore and develop new flavors, and get our beer to everybody in Colorado who wants it.

As a brewery that only distributes in Colorado, do you see value in expanding your footprint or do you want to keep it in-state?

Unit Monster–a collaboration beer between Telluride, Marble, and Mr. B’s. It’s an imperial stout aged in Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey barrels on Colorado cherries and vanilla beans.

It will take a new brewery to even consider leaving the state, but leaving is not a goal of ours at this point. I love being a Colorado-only brewery! It’s much easier to manage and monitor freshness and quality. Plus, Colorado is home!

When will we make Unit Monster 2???

I am ready! It is all in Ted’s hands! We have no capacity up here!

A very big thank you to Fish and the whole Telluride crew.

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