Aspen Times Weekly: Profiling an Aspen Millenial
The Aspen name is known throughout the world; it is a brand that carries with it luxury and celebrity. But Duncan Clauss, co-founder of the Aspen Brewery, saw what Aspen was lacking.
“Craft beer was everywhere in Colorado and Aspen was missing out on it,” said the now 29-year-old.
Clauss moved to Aspen post-college with his two friends, Brad Veltman and Rory Douthit, to fulfill a niche this mountain town didn’t know it needed — opening the doors of Aspen Brewery in March 2008.
But it wasn’t Clauss’ first business venture. In 1994, at the age of 9, a large blizzard hit the East Coast; he and a friend strapped two shovels to the front of a go-kart and cleared the snow off driveways in their Greenwich, Conn., neighborhood. After that, few school breaks went by without Clauss finding a creative way to turn a profit, from selling T-shirts on Nantucket for a summer to making surfboards to sell out of his parents’ garage.
“I have always had an entrepreneurial bug in my bones,” Clauss said.
That bug is what gave him the motivation to head straight to Aspen after graduating from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
While Clauss is not the sole owner of the Aspen Brewery, he is the face of the business and is involved in all of the daily tasks — from balancing accounts and forecasting annual sales to delivering beer and scrubbing the tasting room floor.
And if 70-plus hour work weeks aren’t enough, Clauss literally brings his work home with him. He lives directly behind the brewery’s tasting room, which is located downtown on Hopkins Avenue.
“It’s a curse and a blessing,” Clauss said about his living situation. “It’s tough to have quiet time, but I can always take care of something simply.”
Aspen Brewery beer can be found in several local restaurants, but the official tasting room boasts the most taps with seven tasty brews a season ranging from the popular Independence Pale Ale to the award-winning Saison.
Plus, it’s the perfect place to kick back and have a few at the end of the ski day.
“It’s a laid-back place where people can just hang out,” bar manager Danny Collins said. “You don’t have to get dressed up. You can just be.”
The initial idea to start a brewery in Aspen came to life when Clauss and his college roommate, former Brewery co-owner Brad Veltman, created a business plan template during their final semester of college. The template helped transform a vague concept into a tangible establishment.
“We were graduating and we had everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Clauss said. “So we decided to roll the dice.”
That gamble launched a brand that continues to grow. Today, after almost six years in business, Aspen Brewery beer can be found in 75 restaurants and liquor stores in the Roaring Fork Valley and 100 in Summit County and throughout the Front Range.
“We want to continue to spread strategically throughout Colorado as we see fit and as cash allows,” Clauss said.
Clauss admits there have been many challenges over the years and that he can often get critical of how things are going, but he’s happy with the decision he made to move to Aspen and start not only a business, but a lifestyle.
“Even after the longest, hardest day there is nothing I’d rather be doing,” Clauss said.
Barbara Platts, a local marketing professional, writes about the “mountain millennial culture” that she participates in every day. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @barbaraplatts.
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