Craft breweries continue to grow in Pikes Peak region


Business is hopping for area craft breweries.

There are about two dozen active craft breweries in Colorado Springs, according to Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.

“There are 402 active brewery licenses in Colorado — not counting 3.2 percent [alcohol] duplicates — and 25 active in Colorado Springs,” he said in an email.

Smiling Toad head brewer Fred Davis says he stopped counting the local breweries this past year.

“Still, there is almost a community feel among all of us breweries,” he said. “We all seem to get along and help each other out when we need a hose or something.”

Collectively, craft brewers have about a $70 billion economic impact on the U.S., Watson said.

“Locally, this will depend on the size of the brewery and their business model, but they can move into spaces that are zoned industrial, re-vitalizing areas that have been hit by de-industrialization and even bringing new foot traffic, depending on the business model,” he said. “Breweries bring in tourism and often look to partner with other local businesses, such as coffee roasters, as one example.”

A nationally representative survey conducted with Nielsen in 2017 found nearly half of craft beer drinkers are willing to visit a brewery that’s more than two hours away from their house.

“Craft drinkers averaged 3.5 local brewery visits a year and 2.5 while traveling,” Watson said.

Food trucks as well as local musicians have benefited from the growing number of craft breweries in the Springs.

“This is definitely a good pairing for both parties because we help attract customers for them and likewise,” said Christina Cunningham, marketing and event coordinator for Witty Pork’s and Street Treats food trucks. “With our pizza truck, we try to pair beer with the pizza and even incorporate each other’s businesses. It’s really helped us establish our customer base being able to come to the breweries.”

Terry Johnson pours in barley as Smiling Toad Brewery head brewer Fred Davis stirs the mixture that will become the business’ signature IPa Freely. The name of the brewery was meant to be original and not Colorado-themed, said head brewer Fred Davis. “Too many other breweries go that route and we didn’t want to be easily confused,” he said.

The barley used to make Smiling Toad Brewery’s craft beers is ordered from a Denver distributor and comes from all over the U.S. “Our head brewer, Fred Davis, is real good at coming up with recipes,” said Biff, the brewery’s owner.

Smiling Toad head brewer Fred Davis with a handful of dehydrated hops. The majority of commercial hops are grown between latitudes of 35 and 55 degrees north. The Yakima Valley in Washington State is one of the two largest regions for world hop production.

Black Forest Brewery Company beertender Courtney Crews pours a drink. The family-owned brewery has five employees, said owner Tara Routsis. “We are very blessed to have great community support from our Black Forest family and friends,” she said. “We have been really busy since we opened our doors with no sign of it letting up.”

Since opening its doors almost two months ago, Black Forest Brewery Co. has experienced an abundance of foot traffic, said owners Tara and Donovan Routsis, who already are considering expanding next door.

Black Forest Brewery Co. owner Donovan Routsis introduces a new experimental tap to customers. The Seattle native and Air Force veteran fell in love with beer while stationed in Germany. That love is apparent in the brewery’s decorations as well as its beer offerings.

Most local breweries feature food trucks on weekends and are normally scheduled months in advance because of the growing number of the portable kitchens in Colorado Springs, said Keith Altemose, owner of Nano 108. There are about 50 to 60 food trucks operating in Colorado Springs, said Christina Cunningham, Witty Pork’s marketing and event coordinator. “It’s still not that competitive because we all offer different food,” she said.

Since opening the Sweet Treats truck, Witty Pork’s has added a wood-oven pizza truck that often can be found outside Nano 108 Brewing Company, with special pizza and beer pairings available, said Christina Cunningham, Witty Pork’s marketing and event coordinator. Being able to park outside of breweries helps food trucks establish their customer base, she said.

Brass Brewing Company opened its door March 22 and has seven employees with 12 beer taps, said brewery owner Wayne “Woody” Briggs. The establishment, like other local breweries, provides a stage for area musicians.

Local musician Deryk Cunningham performs at Brass Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs. The majority of local musicians are represented by two agencies that schedule their performances at area craft breweries and bars.

Customers can check the schedule of upcoming musicians on a chalkboard at Brass Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs. Musicians must play their own music if establishments don’t have licenses for cover music, which cost about $4,000 a year, said Briggs.