Crystal Springs Special Edition #3 2011 & 2012
|Happy First Day of Spring Eve,
In 2011 our twin girls started high school – both were in band with me. The brewery continued to grow and we added “bubble tops” to our 26 gallon ferments – they could now hold two batches from our 20 gallon brewhouse. That allowed us to fill at least 6 1/6 bbl kegs (5.17 gallons) at a time. We didn’t have a brite tank, so I was carbonating in the keg and had rigged up a set up that could carbonate those 6 kegs all at one time. That summer demand grew considerably and there were times that I did 8 – 10 brews a week. Thank goodness I had the “bottling crew” (wife and kids) to help.
Doc’s Porter and Summertime Kolsch were our “year around” beers. Stage House 1899 was also becoming quite popular and we brewed a lot of that as well. I was still teaching full time so it was quite an adventure. I would come home from school on a brew day, get the mash going and would finish around midnight. Weekends I usually did double brews one day and one brew the other. Kristy and I both delivered beer. Almost all of our accounts were within a couple miles of our house. When asked, is this beer local, one account would tell the patron, “They’re up Sunshine Canyon. If they rolled a keg from their brewery, it would come crashing right through our front door!”
One thing happened that spring that illustrates the comradery amongst craft brewers. I was filtering Summertime Ale, one 1/6 bbl keg at a time, using a 5 gallon home brew filtering system. It worked but it was getting so I was spending a lot of time doing so and it was becoming harder and harder to keep up. So I sent out an email to other local breweries (there weren’t many at that time). Chad from Upslope, sent me a reply one evening and said, “Tom, sleep well tonight, you’re problem is solved – come out to the brewery in the morning (back then they only had the Lee Street location). When I got there he took me up to their loft and showed me a 20cm plate filter they were no longer using. He taught me how to use it and gave me several filter pads. I asked how much I needed to pay him and he told me to just borrow it, see how it worked and we’d talk about that later. He added that they’d give me more filters when I needed them. It was a life saver! I was now able to easily filter 40 gallons of Summertime in less time than it took to do 5 gallons before. What a relief! I did end up buying it and we still have it, although we no longer use it. Let me know if you need one.
At the end of 2011, we ordered a 2 bbl brewhouse from Stout Tanks and Kettles and two 2-barrel fermenters. It is still the brewhouse we use at the Sunshine Canyon Brewery. We put it into action in the spring of 2012. I was pretty excited – we could brew three times what we could before.
In early 2012, we began brewing Solano Chili Beer. I had created that recipe for a good friend’s birthday party a few years earlier. I had another friend who worked for a farmer who grew chili peppers locally (Anaheim), so we bought chilis from him. We brewed it for the first time on January 7, 2012. It sold so well we brewed another batch on January 22, 2012. Over the years we’ve had to find different chili suppliers, but we’ve been brewing it for several years now using Pueblo chili Peppers from DiTomaso Farms in Pueblo. We decided on Pueblo chili peppers after having brewing batches using three different chili peppers and letting our customers decide – the Pueblo chili pepper won.
We also added Angel Wheat beer to our lineup in 2012.
We started doing special events and festivals in 2012 – Chocolate Lovers Festival, Avery Strong Ale Fest, Colorado Brewers Festival in Ft. Collins, Steamboat Oktoberwest, to mention a few. And, in 2012, we started brewing at Crabtree Brewing as an independent proprietorship in order to meet demand.
We also expanded our barrel aging with more kegs from Boulder Creek Winery – ones that had held port in them. That fall we filled them with Black Saddle to age for a year. We entered that beer in the strong barrel aged beer category at the Colorado State Fair the next year (2012) and it won Gold in its category and the John C. Hanley Award, the best of all the barrel aged beers entered that year.
The spring of 2012 was pretty eventful for us. We bought the “Creeper Van” (a 1985 Chevy cargo van) in late April – so named because Jacey and Kelsey said it looked just like the creeper vans in scary movies. My brother-in-law Tim and I drove to Iowa to pick it up. Brian, my oldest sister Nancy’s husband, found it for us. While we were there, Nancy and I drove to Cedar Rapids to pick up barrels that Kristy’s cousin Karey had found for us – from a winery/distillery near there. Some of those barrels had held dark rum and we used them make Drum, a barrel aged porter. Some of you may remember it.
We started canning our beers shortly after that, using Mobile Canning. founded by Pat and Ron – we were their second customer. We canned Summertime Ale for the first time in Ron’s garage. I loaded 4 kegs of it on ice in the creeper van. Some of my fondest memories of canning with Pat and Ron were when they’d bring their canning line up to the Sunshine Brewery. It would take us about an hour to unload and set it up, about an hour to can the beer, another hour to tear it all down and load it into the truck. Then we’d spend about the same amount of time laughing and enjoying beers.
One of the most impactful things we did in 2012 was to start looking for another location. Our little brewery was full of tanks and barrels and we were running out of room. Plus, we were only selling wholesale. We wanted a taproom where we could meet and mingle with the people who were buying our beer. By then we were brewing three to four times what we did our first year. Sadly, we were unable to find a location that year even though we had searched high and low.
Next, 2013 – a magical, exciting, eventful but also exasperating year.