Local craft brewery and restaurant Cerberus Brewing Co. has cultivated a stellar reputation based on its excellent food, hip atmosphere and, of course, its beer. The man responsible for Cerberus’ brews, head brewer and co-owner Josh Adamski, is a 20-year Springs resident who turned his home-brewing passion into a successful career.
Adamski came to the Springs from Phoenix, Arizona, in 2000, so he could work as a first responder for Intel Ambulance Services. In the years since, he has left the medical world behind and thrown himself into perfecting his craft, even studying biology with the goal of either owning or working in a brewery. He interned at Red Leg Brewing Co., then became general manager of Brewer’s Republic, owned at the time by Jerry Morris and Tom Halfast, who opened Cerberus with Adamski at the brewing helm in 2016.
Shortly after its opening, food and drink reviewer Griffin Swartzell of the Colorado Springs Indy, the Business Journal’s sister publication, had this to say about Cerberus: “It’s gourmet touches ... built around the strong beer lineup, which distinguish Cerberus from the rest of the brewery pack. Get in line; the crowds will probably be here to stay.” And the past four years have proven that statement true.
The Business Journal caught up with Adamski to get some background on this local craft-brewing behemoth.
When you were looking for something to do for fun all those years ago, why did you choose brewing over, oh, knitting or whatever else?
I — you know, that’s funny. I don’t know. I’ve always been intrigued by biology and science and everything, so it might have been that. I just thought it’d be fun to do something kind of creative. I didn’t really have a ton of hobbies when I moved here. I read a lot. I liked music — that’s about it. [I’m] not a skier, not a snowboarder. So I think, reading about the science of it, I just was intrigued by it, and I wanted to see if I could do it myself. And then you meet people. You make friends and then you start trading beer. You would trade someone on the East Coast for a six-pack of some beer you couldn’t get that you heard was good. And you had beer in Colorado, other beer. And so it just became like a community where you just started meeting people that had common interests like you; there was a homebrew club in town. … And then in 2009, I went back to college full-time and worked at Old West Homebrew Supply, which is downtown. So I just kind of stayed in the mix with it.
How would you say that brewing changed your life?
I’m much, much, much happier. … Going from the 12-hour shifts, having three or four days off every other week to go on vacation, then going back to college [in my] late 30s, being the old guy in the classes and then staying up till 2 a.m. to run a bar — that was the opposite of what you should do. You should do that in your 20s, you know? But it was fun. It was a lot of fun. It was a weird thing, a change of pace, and the lifestyle and everything was a total turnaround. But it led me to this, which is nice. Because it was one of the things I wanted to do. Open a brewery.
And Cerberus has been so successful.
Yeah, it’s been — I mean, we didn’t expect it. I was hoping just to open a brewery on a corner and make beer every day and just enjoy that. And when it blew up like it did the first six months, we had to order new supplies and more tanks and everything, it was so crazy. No one expected it to take off the way it did. I was lucky, because when you make friends in the brewing community it’s kind of nice — I’ve been able to volunteer a lot. I spent four months at Red Leg the year before we opened and did a free internship. Going from your kitchen or garage or a smaller-capacity brewery to a fully commercial brewery is very dramatic and a huge change, so it’s kind of fun to be able to volunteer somewhere in town and make some friends, and Red Leg allowed me to do that. [The internship] was able to get me even more people to talk to, people to reach out to, and make more friends and get more interest in Cerberus.
When you’re talking about networking, you’re not talking about forming business connections but making friends.
The beer world is a huge community, whether it be other head brewers, whether it be other owners, or whether it be just the community itself to come out and buy crowlers or cans or a beer to go. The community itself is amazing, and you don’t realize you’re actually networking … until you get close to doing something and people reach out and go, “Hey, how’s that brewery going? Need any help? What’s going on? Let me know when you’re open.” It starts to dawn on you how all this stuff I’ve done in the last two to five years, it adds up.
But then you’ve got this crowd of people around us and on the Westside that love everything we’re doing, you know, they see the amount of money we’re donating to certain causes, they see things that we’re doing — beers we’re making for Black Lives Matter, for dog adoptions, for all these things, and that’s what the community is all about. I’m not in it to get rich, and we’re not even near wealthy at all, but it’s not about that. It’s about just doing something fun that’s good for you. And then you can put money back into the community.
Is it more of a science as you were talking about earlier, or is it an art? Or is it kind of both?
It is an art. Especially when it comes to old-school style, it’s an art form because the older styles are done the same way for 100 or 200 years, and it’s hard to duplicate that. Nowadays, it’s artisanal, but it’s also experimental. It’s also very creative-driven and very imagination-driven, because you have styles like the New England IPAs, the hazy IPAs, which — me being a 17-year brewer, you learn by books and everything else that beer always was clear. And all these old-school brewers hate this cloudiness. But customers love it. Customers love what you can do with this New England style, these juicy IPAs. They just love how it tastes like orange juice or mango or pineapple, and it’s just hops, that’s all it is. The base part of it is biology. It comes down to: You’re putting sugar water into a tank, you’re adding yeast, and the yeast is eating the sugars, and it shits out CO2 and alcohol. And it’s not to minimize it, it’s amazing how yeast can duplicate cells so fast and so rapidly and eat the sugar down to a point where you want it to be, so you get enough alcohol to be 7 percent, or 8 percent or 6 percent beer, you know? And the flavor that gives off as it does that — it’s just amazing. It’s all biology. You know, there might be a smidge of chemistry in there, but it’s basically breaking down an enzyme and a grain to create a protein to boil down to create a wort and then for yeast to eat the wort, which is basically sugar water, and then [that] creates the finished product. It’s crazy.
That’s really cool! I never knew how beer came to be.
Tom, Jerry and me and my mom are the partners [in Cerberus], and even Tom, back in the day before we opened, he would make jokes. He thought I was a witch over a cauldron, and I would just stir things together and poof, there it is. It’s like, no, beer takes, at minimum, at least 10 days to ferment cleanly. Other styles can take 14 or 21 days to cleanly do [their] job. And then lagers take, you know, a month, a month and a half. So he was kind of unaware of how beer was actually made. And, and that still happens today. And that’s totally fine, because it’s not your world. So I totally understand it, but it was kind of funny because like, ‘No, man, it takes like two weeks to get a nice clean IPA on tap, from brew day to on-tap.’
Adamski will be the focus of the Indy’s Sept. 23 COS Creatives event (with beer tastings); learn more here.