Basalt brewery founder: ‘I can’t believe somebody didn’t beat me to it’ |

Basalt brewery founder: ‘I can’t believe somebody didn’t beat me to it’

Capitol Creek Brewery will open at a new building in Willits Town Center, near Element Hotel. The opening is anticipated before the end of winter.
Aspen Times file photo |

The man with the plan for a brewpub in Willits Town Center said last week he feels fortunate that no one beat him to the punch.

Bill Johnson said opening Capitol Creek Brewery at Willits is the right idea at the right time and the right place because of the growth of the midvalley development in Basalt and the level of support he anticipates from the midvalley population.

“It’s a no-brainer of a concept,” he said. “My thought is, I can’t believe somebody didn’t beat me to it.

“I’ve had my eye on Willits for quite a while,” he added.

Johnson was a founding partner in Highlands Pizza Co. in 2008. The bar and restaurant at the base of Aspen Highlands evolved into the Highlands Ale House. Johnson said he sold his 50-percent share in the Highlands business to fund his pursuit of Capitol Creek Brewery.

The brewpub will be located in the northeast corner of a building under construction on the southern edge of Willits Town Center. The current construction schedule would allow Johnson to open late this winter.


Johnson said the space is an “A-location.” It is across the street from Element Hotel, a short distance from Whole Foods and in the same building where 50 apartments are being constructed. In addition, 27 condos are being constructed in a second phase of the project.

The business will include a brewery that produces beers for in-house consumption, a restaurant and bar. The bar will feature 16 to 20 seats and the dining room will accommodate roughly 80 seats. There will be five overhead garage doors wrapped around the building that can be opened according to the weather and provide an open feel for patio seating.

Johnson envisions a place where adults will want to hang out at the bar but families will find it friendly for lunch and dinner. Willits restaurants have a reputation for family-friendliness.

“We need to attract as much family business as we can,” he said.

He anticipates being open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and into the evening year-round.

He anticipates a traditional brewpub menu rounded out with unique offerings such as dishes featuring elk, house-stuffed sausages, a big selection of entree salads with fresh ingredients as well as lighter options such as shared plates.

Brew for in-house consumption

Jerod Day, who helped Roaring Fork Beer Co. of Carbondale get rolling, will be the brewmaster. Johnson said the brewery will have the capability of producing as many as 1,000 barrels, or roughly 2,000 kegs, per year. He doesn’t plan to bottle or can his brews.

“All the beer we produce will be sold in house,” he said. There will be eight to nine beers on tap at any given time, he said, with a revolving lineup.

Johnson will be general manager and the “backbone” of Capitol Creek Brewery. Right now he’s in the role of doing whatever he can to prepare the business for opening. He has been finishing the woodwork that will dominate what he labeled a “mid-century, vintage industrial” look. Wood sources include tabletops from reclaimed barn wood, bar top from reclaimed boxcars floors. He also will incorporate reclaimed oak plants that were side panels on truck beds for the community tables.

In addition to Capitol Creek Brewery, Mezzaluna will open a second restaurant in the valley at Willits Town Center. The popular Aspen restaurant will add a sister restaurant in the midvalley. It also is slated to open by late winter.

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