Chris Wright spent more than five years developing his business plan for Pikes Peak Brewing Company.
“Usually people don’t take that long, but I wanted to think through every possible scenario,” Wright said.
That time paid off. Since the day it opened in 2011, “the Tri-Lakes community has embraced us,” he said.
Wright sought to re-create the feel of a European pub — a gathering place that’s “more about community than just drinking.” The concept was so successful in Monument, where Pikes Peak Brewing was the first craft brewer, that Wright has expanded twice.
Now he’s looking to expand again — this time to up-and-coming South Downtown Colorado Springs.
The Pikes Peak Brewing Lager House will anchor a market space in the 500 block of South Tejon Street being developed by Niebur Development in what was once a trolley car barn and, later, SouthSide Johnny’s. Wright said the concept is similar to Denver’s Stanley Marketplace, a community of 50 independently owned businesses.
The lager house will open into the market, and Wright’s neighbors will include several restaurants and bars, a yoga studio and a live music venue.
“The market will have a common seating area,” he said. “We’ll have our own seating area as well. We will not be a full restaurant but a brewery that has good food, like artisan sandwiches and other unique things we’re working on.”
Wright is most excited about the lager house’s 2,500-square-foot rooftop patio and the fact that it will be brewing only lagers, using traditional lagering techniques such as oak vessels.
“Lagers were one of the first types of beer made in Germany,” he said. “Most craft brewers focus on ales, because they’re easier.”
Wright, a native of Roanoke, Va., was stationed in Germany during his service in the U.S. Army.
“That’s where I developed my love for beer — experiencing the beer scene in Germany,” he said. “I brought that experience when I came here.”
Wright was transferred to Fort Carson in 1998 and fell in love with the area. He moved to Monument in 2003 and built computer networks.
Wright’s favorite pastime, though, was home brewing, and while he was formulating that five-year business plan, he was developing and testing beer recipes, making them over and over again to gain an understanding of the chemistry.
He raised funds for the brewery through friends, family and a small bank loan. With no similar gathering place in Monument, the pub concept was an instant hit.
“Our growth has been spectacular,” Wright said. “We’ve been growing between 20 to 30 percent year over year in the last five years. Last year we did 6,100 barrels. We’re No. 22 [in production] in Colorado and second in El Paso County.”
The first brewery consisted of a tavern and production area. By 2013, it needed more production and retail space, and Wright doubled the square footage and expanded the beer garden that overlooks Lake Woodmoor.
After the expansion, Wright began selling to restaurants, and a year later he began canning beer.
“We self-distributed — delivered all the beer to the restaurants for two years, then signed with Western Distributing Co.,” he said. Now the business sells beer statewide; 692 retail outlets, including grocery and liquor stores and restaurants, purchased last quarter.
A second expansion in March 2017 added about 6,000 square feet, all in the production area.
“We’re at about 13,000 square feet now,” Wright said.
Pikes Peak Brewing packages four year-round and six seasonal beers in cans, and brewed 28 different draft beer recipes last year. The top seller in canned beer is Pikes Peak Gold, a Belgian golden strong ale, followed by Elephant Rock, an American IPA.
Wright said there has been a lot of trial and error and a lot of “learning as you go,” but from the start he has surrounded himself with great people and hasn’t hesitated to reach out and ask for help.
“We used SCORE [Business Mentors] when we did the second expansion,” he said. “They’re a great resource.”
He also picked brains at the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.
“You’d be surprised how many people know something more than you do,” he said.
After the Trump administration’s announcement in early 2018 of a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, Wright and other producers feared their can costs could rise by 10 percent.
But that turned out to be a temporary blip, and for the past 18 months, Wright said his biggest challenge has been raising money for the downtown expansion. He closed on an SBA loan last week.
“We’re about maxed out with our debt service now,” he said, “but that’s OK, because I’m very excited about the potential for this property.”
Wright said he’s now going into a market that is considerably more saturated than when he first opened Pikes Peak Brewing. In fact, FH Beerworks, another small brewery, is right across the street.
But he feels a kinship with his fellow small, local, independent brewers and wants consumers to continue to support them.
“I’m really hoping we can create synergy with all of our neighbors and make it a destination for people to come try all of our beers,” he said.
Pikes Peak Brewing Company
Location: 1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument
Contact: 719-208-4089; pikespeakbrewing.com