ASPEN - After a tough year, the Aspen Brewing Co. is back on track.
The local beermaker on Tuesday celebrated the beginning of a new brewing operation in a renovated, 6,400-square-foot warehouse at the Aspen Business Center, according to co-owner Brad Veitman.
With three 1,200-gallon tanks in the new facility, the 3 1/2-year-old business can ramp up its volume and market its fresh suds to local bars and restaurants again - a service that has been on hiatus since last winter, when the company shut down a far smaller brewing operation on North Mill Street.
There have been other setbacks, including the failure of the California supplier to get the tanks and other necessary brewing equipment to the new ABC brewing center in a timely manner, Veitman said. Eventually, the tanks arrived, but without the related accessories and an experienced installer.
This forced the company to pay several thousand dollars in expenses that were supposed to have been covered with the payment to the original supplier, which was dealing with serious financial problems, Veitman said. The loss in business and other problems stemming from the supplier's failure to honor its agreement resulted in a six-figure local court judgment last month for Aspen Brewing Co., but whether it will collect a dime through the judgment is anyone's guess.
Clearly excited about the new brewing operation and what it holds for the future, Veitman was grinning from ear to ear during a Tuesday interview, outwardly putting the problems of the recent past behind him.
"We've had a lot of setbacks and frustration recently, but I'm so happy we're finally past that - we've reached the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Now we can concentrate on being a brewery again. We're happy that so many people in the community continued to support us through this trying time."
Soon the company will start canning some of its products, Veitman said. That will give the business some extra reach into bars and restaurants not equipped to serve beer on tap as well as providing access into new markets, such as liquor stores.
The company also has a "tasting room" on East Hopkins Avenue, which has been a hit with locals and visitors since opening a year ago. The fall offseason was a bit slow, Veitman said, but sales are expected to pick up soon with the coming of winter tourism, the primary sales generator for most local businesses.
For Aspen Brewing Co., there's a bonus this year: The expected opening later this month of Over Easy, a new restaurant directly below the tasting room. Veitman said the restaurant operators installed a point-of-sale system at the upstairs tasting room, which will give the brewing company synergy with a local eatery that wasn't developed with the former downstairs restaurant tenant, Oy Vey Cafe.
All in all, the 27-year-old entrepreneur, a San Diego native and 2006 graduate of the University of Colorado, said he has no regrets in making an investment in Aspen back in the spring of 2008.
He said Aspen won out over other possible locations mainly because no one was brewing high-quality beer in the area when he and his partner, Duncan Clauss, decided to set up shop.
"There was, in our minds, no reason why there shouldn't be a good chance of a successful brewery being from here," he said. "There's a brewery in every other ski town in the state, it seems. And just the idea and the image and the branding of the word 'Aspen' - it's a no-brainer."
Commercial rents for the brewing and tasting facilities have been expensive, Veitman acknowledged, and the company had to go through its share of government red tape and bureaucracy before opening.
But the added incentive of living in a friendly and active town has helped to make the Aspen venture worthwhile.
"You really learn that in the offseasons," Veitman said. "It sucks that it's really slow and you're not making much money, but you go to a grocery store or a bar and you know everybody. It's a unique town, so small and so condensed, but everyone's friendly, and there doesn't seem to be much competition."
Aspen Brewing Co.'s tasting room is open seven days a week from noon to midnight and sometimes until 1:30 a.m. It serves only the brewery's products, which carry catchy names with a local angle: items such as Independence Pass Ale and Pyramid Peak Porter. Live music is usually offered on Friday and Saturday evenings and for other special occasions.
Veitman contracted with a Moab, Utah, company to brew beers for the tasting room during the local production hiatus. With construction at the ABC brewing center taking longer than expected because of a cash-flow issue created by the holdup with the tanks - and summer and fall sales running lower than expected - he and his partner recently sold some of the company's equity.
"Summer was tough, and it's usually huge for us," Veitman said. "We were supposed to receive all the tanks and equipment back in April. We didn't receive the tanks until August. We asked the supplier where the rest of the stuff was, and he said he'd have it for us the next week. We never heard from him again."
But Veitman, his partner and their small staff persevered, and now the prevailing attitude is all systems go.
"We're ecstatic," Veitman said. "We're champing at the bit."