Chase Engel dreams about his work. We all should be so lucky.
Engel is head brewer and CEO of Roaring Fork Beer Co., a Carbondale brewery preparing for its grand opening later this month. He’s been planning for a month what brews he wants to offer, including one he calls Nitro Pub Ale.
“It’s been in my head since I was a home brewer nine years ago,” Engel said. “There’s nothing on the market like it.”
It doesn’t follow any distinct, established style, but it is between an amber ale and a brown ale. Engel said he recently had a moment of inspiration on how exactly he wanted to make the Nitro.
“The other night I woke up at 3 in the morning” with the thought of how to tweak it, he said.
Engel has been “marathon brewing” since last week after getting his state and federal licenses and the certificate of occupancy for his brewery from the town of Carbondale.
Two of his creations, Nitro Pub Ale and Freestone Extra Pale Ale, will be available year-round as Roaring Fork Beer Co.’s signature selections. The Freestone will appeal to “hopheads” who like a hopped-up brew. Nitro is maltier.
A cornerstone of Engel’s business plan is to offer seasonal beers throughout the year. That will keep him challenged as a brewer and his customers happy because of variety. The opening, for example, also will feature a spring India pale ale. Slaughterhouse Lager, which he describes as a crisp American lager, will be available from June through November.
On Thursday, the brew room was abuzz with activity as Engel and assistant Max Epshteyn were making a batch of Nitro. The smell was warm and inviting, like a grandma’s house when oatmeal cookies are being pulled out of the oven. Seven different grains are used for the Nitro. Engel peered into a spyglass-like instrument called a refractometer to see if the sugar level was proper. He visually checked a sample to confirm the color was where he wanted it. Engel can tweak the temperature or ingredients during the brewing process to get the taste to his satisfaction.
“It’s like being a chef almost,” he said.
“We’re not trying to make it to any style,” he said of the Nitro. “We’re just making it taste good.”
The 3,000-square-foot brewing facility features nine tanks of varying sizes that are needed for a 15-barrel brewing system and a 2,000-barrel annual fermenting system.
“After today, we’ll have made 105 barrels of beer in one week, which is crazy,” Engel said.
His beers needed to ferment for two to four weeks prior to the grand opening, depending on the style, so he had to go all-out. The brewing will taper back a bit from the frantic pace of recent days, but numerous bars and restaurants already have agreed to serve Roaring Fork Beer Co.’s brews on tap, in cans or both. Several establishments in Carbondale are on board, as are Sure Thing Burgers in Basalt and the Wheeler Opera House and Finbarr’s in Aspen.
Engel’s wife, Aly Sanguily, will oversee the operations of the tasting room, which is separate but close to the brewing operations. The brewery and tasting room are located off of Delores Way, a road that intersects with Highway 133 near Ajax Bike and Sport.
There will be two bars in two small tasting rooms, one featuring a view of Mount Sopris. The decor is an attractive mix of refurbished barn wood and furnishings hand-built from beetle-kill pinewood. Craft Catering will offer appetizers and a limited menu.
Engel said he is contracting a mobile canning operation from Longmont rather than canning himself. The Freestone will be offered in 16-ounce cans and sold in four-packs. Sopris Liquor and Wine has committed to buying the entire first canned batch of 100 cases.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the tasting room at 4 p.m. on March 28, and grand-opening sessions will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on March 28 and 29. Tickets must be purchased in advance for $30 and include a pig roast and a commemorative glass with endless tastings. Tickets and more information about the grand-opening sessions are available online at www.roaringforkbeer co.com.
“After today, we’ll have made 105 barrels of beer in one week, which is crazy.”
Head brewer, Roaring Fork Beer Co.