Beer is to Colorado what wine is to California, which is why we’re seeing a whole new crop of microbreweries in Steamboat Springs. I Almost need two hand to count them on.
It may seem like the microbrewery scene in Steamboat Springs is exploding as more new breweries open every year, turning once dreary industrial spaces into lively tap rooms and gathering places. That’s not the case, says Wyatt Patterson, owner of Storm Peak Brewing: Steamboat is simply finally catching up. “It’s true there have definitely been a lot of new breweries opening in Steamboat, but it’s just been filling a void with the breweries most other towns in Colorado have had for years. I think it’s more indicative of the growth of the industry.”
We caught up with Patterson to find out why beer and Steamboat are the perfect summer pairing.
What is it that you love about making beer?
We have 20 tap beers and are very much a tap room-focused brewery. We try to experiment as much as we can. We are always trying new things and the menu is always shifting. We would get really bored if we were making the same recipes over and over. It helps us learn and stay sharp and continue to push our limits of what we can brew. People always ask what’s your flagship or your style or what beer defines you guys and we try to avoid that. We found a few that the community has responded well to, and those are the ones we package and distribute. Mostly, we’re just having fun.
What’s your process for coming up with a new label?
We might take an existing beer and sit down and talk about what flavors we want to add: fruity, spicy, earthy, peppery, and that’s going to help us dictate what hops we use. Then we’ll look at colors to define what kind of malt we use. We build it, and wing it, and a lot of times we don’t know what the beer is going to turn out like. It’s always a gamble when you’re making 20 barrels at a time. But the beauty of the taproom is having an outlet for those one-offs and having that freedom.
Why is beer so dang popular in Colorado?
I think there’s something about draft beer and just enjoying a cold beer after a full day of outdoor activity. It just works. It’s very satisfying and rewarding. A lot of craft brewery hot spots are centered in regions where you have a lot outdoor activity. There is a synergy between the outdoor lifestyle and enjoying a hand-crafted beer with your friends.
It seems like craft beer has ascended to the ranks of wine making in terms of all the different varieties out there.
In my opinion, beer is more complicated than wine, considerably so. Mostly because of the variety of ingredients. Think about it: wine is fermented grape juice, basically. All you have to play with are the grapes themselves. I’ve talked to wine makers who say they would kill to have the creative freedom and variety that we have.
What’s trending this season?
We’re seeing a lot of New England style IPA. It’s hazy and doesn’t have the bitterness that you get from a normal IPA. Hops are also evolving a lot. As the hops industry evolves, hop flavors and aromas are getting more intense. We’re able to get hops from places like Australia and New Zealand that aren’t as readily available, so we’re able to experiment with more flavors than we once were. Another thing we’ve been experimenting with is kettle sours, which is basically made with yogurt that creates bacteria that acidifies the beer in a nice way and gives it a tart flavor. Then we’ll add fruit to balance it out. We’re doing a guava sour blonde called “Hootchie Mama” that’s made by adding 850 pounds of guava into the beer as its nearing the end of fermentation. The acidity and guava together make it really refreshing. Another great summer beer is “Gaper,” our pilsner. We’ve just started putting Gaper into cans, so people can enjoy it anywhere. It’s a super nice, light refreshing crisp lager that’s great for summertime.
Storm Peak Brewing is open daily, located on the west end of Steamboat Springs, at the intersection of Elk River Road and Highway 40.
Reproduced with permission from SteamboatSIR.com