MONUMENT — Chris Wright did his homework before launching his beer business, Pikes Peak Brewing Co., in 2011.
With a background in engineering and the U.S. Army, Wright found that Colorado Springs had the fourth-highest concentration of craft beer drinkers in the country. Colorado Springs was listed behind only Denver, Portland and Seattle, he said.
“Colorado Springs likes their craft beer, but they weren’t buying local,” Wright said.
Bristol Brewery crafts the top brew in Colorado Springs, he added.
“In 2013, I wanted to be the clear No. 2 beer provider in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We’re very close.”
Beer makers measure their brew in barrels, each holding 31 gallons. Those numbers are reported to the state and federal governments, which retrieve taxes based on the amount brewed.
Wright’s first full year in business, 2012, Pikes Peak crafted 780 barrels. Last year, that jumped to 1,750 barrels.
“We’re on track to do 2,200 barrels this year,” Wright said.
The brewery can create 10 barrels at a time and can make up to 70 barrels a week, he said.
Canning the craft
Pikes Peak began canning its beer last summer. A professional canner visits the brewery weekly, sterilizes the cans, fills them, burps them, caps them, then cleans the beer cans, Wright said.
“We’re the only Colorado Springs brewery to can beer,” he said.
Canning is better for beer because it combats two out of the three known enemies of beer: oxygen, light and temperature, he said.
Also, cans are lighter to ship and they’re the most recycled product on the planet. They’re easier to use, and they don’t break like bottles, so they’re accepted at more locations for public events, he said.
“That’s one of the reasons I chose to can. Also, world-class craft beers are in cans,” Wright said.
Pikes Peak cans Elephant Rock IPA and Devil’s Head Red beers, which are available at the brewery as well as select liquor stores.
The brewer also bottles some of its varieties. Pikes Peak bottles a new oak barrel-aged beer series, Penrose Private Reserve. The name was inspired by Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose and his clandestine collection of wine and spirits, which he hid under The Broadmoor’s lake during Prohibition.
The first beer in the Penrose series is a Belgian-inspired beer, aged in red wine barrels, along with a porter aged in oak rum barrels.
“It makes for some very nice beers,” Wright said.
Penrose Private Reserve beers are available in 750-ml bottles.
Wright and his wife Judi operate the brewery, tasting room and restaurant at their Monument location. In October 2012, they doubled their restaurant space as well as their brewing room. They serve food from area restaurants — Taste of Life in Monument, Front Range Barbecue in Colorado Springs, Good Karma Cafe in Manitou and The Parked Pierogi in Palmer Lake.
Wright said 78 percent of his beer sales come from the Brewing Company’s bar and restaurant on Lake Woodmoor Drive, to the east of Interstate 25 just north of the Monument exit.
That leaves 22 percent of his sales coming from wholesale liquor stores and restaurants.
“I think the business here has probably reached its peak,” he said of the Monument place, so he intends to focus this year on selling more product wholesale.
He sells Pikes Peak Brewing Co. beer in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, southern Denver and Monument. He also recently hired another sales person to widen the beer’s consuming public.
Wright calls himself a “stylistic” brewer, one who makes beer in styles already created. For example, his goal is to produce beers that are true to specific styles, like his Elephant Rock IPA (India Pale Ale), which has a resinous pine and bright citrus profile.
Another example is his “fiery-colored” Devil’s Head Red, a red ale made with a malt blend providing a smooth palate of caramel, toffee and toast, he said.
The same is true for the brewer’s stout and extra special bitter, oatmeal stout and English mild.
All beers have only four ingredients: water, hops, malt and yeast. Wright says his beers have an added ingredient: friends.
“Our beers are full-flavored renditions of classic styles that are best enjoyed in the company of good friends,” Wright said.
The company motto is “Everything we do, we do because life is better when lived together,” he added.
The company celebrates special events during the year: New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day (a company holiday), a community birthday party and Monument Beer Week in the fall, Wright said.
One of the company’s hallmarks is the special brews it makes for special occasions, like the October “Beer for Boobies” for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proceeds benefit the search for a cure.
In September and October, Wright’s operation brews Local 5 Pale Ale, a beer produced for and with members of the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters’ Association Local 5. Proceeds benefit the group “in support of their service to fallen brethren and their efforts to improve the community,” the company website said.
Pikes Peak Brewing’s other beneficiaries include Trout Unlimited, Autism Speaks, Tri-Lake Cares and more.
Pikes Peak Brewing Co.
Info: 1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument
In business: Since May 2011
Number of employees: 24