Goat Patch Brewing Company
Location: 2727 N. Cascade Ave.
Contact: goatpatchbrewing.com; 719-471-4628
Some Colorado Springs startups continue to prove that, despite conventional wisdom, it can be cool to drink in school. Following up on the long established success of Bristol Brewing Company at the repurposed Ivywild School, the owners of Goat Patch Brewing Company, located at the Lincoln Center, a former elementary school at 2727 N. Cascade Ave., figured, “Hey, we can do that too.”
Started by three families (one an investor on the East Coast), local couples Justin and Jen Grant and Darren and Cate Baze operate the brewery. Darren, head brewer at Goat Patch, got his start at Bristol.
“I was working at Il Vicino, and they used to brew beer,” Darren said. “The brewer at Bristol called the brewer there, and I was working in the kitchen at the time. He asked if someone could help on his bottling line.”
Darren picked up extra hours at the brewery putting bottles on a conveyor belt.
“I worked my way up,” he said. “I went full time with Bristol and was going to culinary school. I was there five years. I started cleaning and filling kegs, then doing filters and ultimately brewing. The last two years, I just brewed.”
Darren left Bristol to be head brewer at TRiNiTY Brewing Co. where he worked for three years, and then for Colorado Mountain Brewery as head brewer for four years. He’s been brewing professionally for about 14 years, he said.
The families joined forces on their current venture because Cate and Justin knew each other from their primary jobs at MGA Home Healthcare. The Bazes and Grants quickly became friends and decided to pursue their dreams of owning a small business.
Stay in your lane
Justin, a native of Maine who served in the Army, said one of the strengths of Goat Patch is specialization.
“The good thing about the model we’ve been able to put forth at Goat Patch is our specialists stay in their lanes,” he said. “I would never go over and tell Darren how to brew a beer, and I’m not speaking for Darren, but he wouldn’t come over and tell us how to read a [profit and loss statement] or identify trends or sales strategies.”
As for setting themselves apart in a growing sea of microbreweries, Darren said it’s all about balance.
“We want to have something for everybody,” he said of the company’s 12 brews. “We don’t specialize in one type of beer or style. We just want anyone who comes in to find something they want to drink and be comfortable.”
Another aspect that sets Goat Patch apart is its charitable components. Referred to affectionately as “Bleating Heart Night,” Goat Patch implemented a weekly initiative that features a local nonprofit each Tuesday from 5-9 p.m. where $1 from every pint sold during those hours goes directly to the nonprofit.
The brewery also has its “It Takes a Tribe” initiative where, each year, it will choose two local nonprofits to feature in a display case in the company’s tasting room for 12 months. Customers who purchase a pint of the brewery’s It Takes a Tribe Red Ale receive a wooden nickel that can be dropped into an agency’s collection box. Each nickel represents 25 cents and checks are written to the nonprofits at year’s end.
In its first three months, the company’s production has been small, but there are big plans to expand, particularly to position Goat Patch beer for supermarket sales as chains begin selling full-strength brews thanks to new state liquor laws.
Darren said he is turning out 100 barrels of beer a month. In its current location and with the proper equipment, Goat Patch could produce up to 10,000 barrels a month and canning for distribution is expected in the next 18 months.
As a point of reference, Pikes Peak Brewing Company — one of the largest producers of craft beer in the county and top 20 in the state — recently expanded its capabilities to produce 13,000 barrels a month.
“From the very beginning we’ve wanted to build a system back there for Darren to grow,” Justin said. “We did our market research and we looked at Denver. A lot of places hit their capacity two to three years in. If they hit that capacity and then they’re picked up by distributors and the beer is selling faster than they can produce it in-house — ultimately you have to look at a bigger space.”
‘The nature of the beast’
Despite sharing a town with a proven model like Bristol Brewing Co., Justin said obtaining a bank loan was more difficult than he expected.
“We all came together and figured out what we could put in for capital, but we knew we needed an additional boost and that came from the conventional side,” Justin said. “So I hit the pavement and talked with banks in Denver and locally. Shawn Gullixson, [vice president, area retail leader] from Vectra Bank was kind enough to sit down and give us a shot. He believed in us and our business model. He believed in our experience level. Sometimes you have startups come in and say their experience is all from home brewing. Darren was never a home brewer. It’s all been professional.”
Because it is a startup, and particularly a startup microbrewery, Justin said some banks didn’t want anything to do with it.
“The hesitancy was because some banks said the local brewing industry was oversaturated. … A few banks we met with compared it to the restaurant industry.
“They took statistics from the restaurant industry and how 85 percent of them go out of business. Breweries are nowhere close to that. Now we have seen some close recently — [like] Triple S [Brewing Company]. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast and, with winter season coming up, there will probably be some more [closures] down the road. But I don’t think that’s local. That’s nationwide.”