Did you ever meet someone so amiable that you could instantly see them as your friend? And not Facebooky “Let’s be friends,” but someone who gets along with anybody regardless of who they are. That’s the impression I got when I met Dan York from Pikes Peak Brewing for the first time. From the ready smile, to the sincere love of craft beer and those who love to drink it, you can tell this guy is the real deal.
As described in the the benefit for Bristol’s Patrick Tuffield post, we met Dan and were immediately drawn into what turned out to be a talk of a couple of hours. Before we parted, promises were made to visit him on our way back to Denver, a promise easily kept since we had planned on stopping in even before we left the house for the event.
Having stayed in Colorado Springs to avoid an intoxicated drive home, the next morning we had a fortifying breakfast at King Chef and hit the road for Monument. The drive was only about 20-25 minutes from the Antlers Hilton where we spent the night; it would have been quicker without the inevitable crawl that presents itself once you get north of Woodmen Drive.
Located east of the highway, navigation to the brewery is a little tricky unless you’ve been there before. I highly recommend Googling it before you go to get an accurate map. Pulling up five minutes after opening time, and expecting to be the first patrons of the day, we found another couple already seated at the bar. The buzz has gotten around about this new brewery, and for good reason.
Opened by Dan and his partner Chris Wright in May of 2011, the business has been steady and the brews well met. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had stopped by both on the Friday and Sunday of the Independence Day weekend and were impressed, a couple of the beers we had on the first visit were tapped out on the way back. All three of our visits were punctuated by a seemingly never-ending stream of people coming in to fill growlers.
The strip mall-like structure the brewery sits in belies nothing of the inviting interior, with its vaulted timber-framed ceiling, generous number of bar stools, and leather sofas fronting a fireplace, the urge to “sit a spell” and drink a few comes easy.
During our conversations with Dan, we expressed our gratitude for our server on our previous two visits to PPB, Diane, who happens to be Dan’s wife. Dan related that he and Dianne had met in Southern California; Dan growing up in Orange County, while Dianne was from New York. When they began their family, they started looking for a better place to raise their kids, and Monument came up in their searches.
We were just finishing our first beers of the day, The Brits are Here Mild for the wife, and an Elephant Rock Imperial IPA for myself, when Dan beamingly came in with his son. A note on the IPA before I continue; It was extremely delicious, with a mind bending five hop bouquet, including Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Magnum, and Northern Brewer hops.
After serving up a couple of tasters that he insisted we try, we made our way back to the nuts and bolts of the brewery where he gave us a tour. Amazingly, with all of the breweries the wife and I have visited over the years, she had never seen the inner workings of a working brewery. I’d had the opportunity many times over the years, namely Wynkoop shortly after they’d opened, and Flying Dog when they expanded here in Denver before bugging out for Maryland, but the wife never had. A running dialogue evolved as Dan pointed out the various equipment and I related the homebrewing counterparts she was familiar with from my many batches over the years.
One important bit of information came out as Dan showed us the mash tun and brew kettle; he and Chris had sprang for a ten barrel system after consulting with other local brewers. Everyone they asked had insisted that they get as much brewing capacity as they could afford. This was sage advice indeed. From my own conversations with other Colorado brewers, I’ve heard related the same musings, many from brewers who’ve wished they did spring for larger brew kettles, namely the guys at Strange, but from others as well. The wife was particularly intrigued by the grain mill/mash tun/brew kettle linkage, taking an extra few moments breathing in the aroma in the mill, being the malt hound she is.
The high point of the tour for me was the presence of a couple of whiskey barrels and their contents. The brew, due to be released sometime around the end of the year, is aging in barrels that Chris would only say as coming from “a certain Colorado distiller.” If it’s as good as another batch I had from Breckenridge aged in barrels from perhaps the same distiller, it’ll be to die for. My mouth is still watering at the thought.
We finished up the afternoon with myself getting the low-down from Dan and Chris, and the wife jabbering with our two very competent servers of the day, Laura and Courtney. PPB has some great events planned around the Labor Day weekend, as well as the aforementioned release at year’s end. If we can fit in another visit along with the other beer events planned, GABF (which they are planning on attending) among them, I’m sure that we’ll have a great time. It’ll be like getting together with long lost friends we never knew we had.