Home brewers going from hobbyists to pros

Posted at 9:58 PM, Sep 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 23:58:24-04

When Jason Reinhardt’s job as a chemist in the oil industry ended two years ago, he did what he always promised he wouldn’t do: turn his hobby of brewing craft beer at home, into a career.

"People used to ask, why aren't you doing this full time, it's in my basement, 21 different beers on tap," Reinhardt said.

Reinhart and long-time home brew partner Andy Nelson have hundreds of recipes that have been developed over more than a decade brewing together. Some of those beers are now being sold in their small Southwest Denver tap room at Locavore Beer Works, 5950 S Platte Canyon Rd, Littleton, CO 80123. 

“It is a lot of fun and there's nothing else you'd rather do," said Nelson. 

Nelson is a full-time airline pilot, but when he’s not flying around the country, he’s in Littleton brewing beer.

Nelson says the goal has never been to compete in the national marketplace, but rather service customers who live within a few miles of their strip mall brewery.

“We brew mostly for our tap room and a little limited distribution in bars and restaurants around southwest Denver and up into Denver,” said Nelson.

With several types of beer on tap and many new recipes in production at any given time, there’s really something for everyone Nelson said.

Across Colorado, there are plenty to choose from also and that amount is growing.

According to statistics from the Brewers Association, more people are taking their home brew operations pro and introducing new beers to the Colorado craft brew landscape.

"Last year we counted 235 breweries in Colorado, and right now there are 312 active brewing licenses, so lots of people are opening and lots of people are in planning and that's because there are tremendous market opportunities at the moment," said Bart Watson, the Staff Economist at the Brewers Association.  “That suggests not only is growth continuing, it’s accelerating.”

Of the hundreds of new craft breweries going into production, Watson says almost all of them are staying in business. Watson says very few small craft breweries are shutting down.

These new sets of entrepreneurs are also finding a way to separate themselves from the competition.

“We're seeing interesting things in barrel aging and sours and incorporating local ingredients and then reviving old styles," said Watson.

According to numbers from the brewers association, nationally, Colorado is 3rd in both breweries and production by craft breweries. As of 2014, Colorado ranks behind California and Washington. Colorado ranks third in breweries per capita and second in production per capita. Production grew 18 percent last year, which is right on par with national growth, Watson said.

Nelson and Reinhardt aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary in brewing methods. The two says they’re brewing their favorites, in hopes they become favorites for their customers too.

"We like to be known for really solid, good beer that people can just really enjoy and then backed up by these really seasonal releases that are really good," said Nelson.