We got our start the same way most brewers do: with a love of good beer! In college I had a number of friends that would get together weekly, cook dinner and drink a few beers. One of those nights, someone produced a box and a large glass jug. I can't remember whose idea it was exactly, but the contents of the box where the ingredients and instructions to brew some kind of red ale. The following week, we ordered pizza and attempted to brew some beer from a box. We first tried to heat water in the 18 quart roaster I had been given by my parents. After about 2 hours of drinking beer and not successfully producing any we switched to an old (not so sanitary) pot found out in the garage. We did eventually manage to follow the instructions on the box and brew some beer. A few weeks later we popped open our first bottles of suds to discover that what we had made was sort of similar in taste to beer.... Being the “great connoisseurs” we all were, we proceeded to drink it all anyway.
After the 3rd or 4th brewing experience, disaster struck! My wife Amanda and I were living in a top floor apartment finishing our last semester of college and I attempted to brew on our kitchen stove. It was the middle of the summer and we had little air conditioning. After brewing, I left the carboy full of future tasty beer on the floor next to the fridge. After one day of fermenting, the beer looked as though it was off to a great start. In the middle of the night on the 2nd day, however, I heard a strange noise, and then my sister, who was staying with us for the weekend knocked on our door to say "something exploded in the kitchen..."
Now the apartment we were living in had some dated 10' vaulted ceilings with popcorn texturing. When I turned on the kitchen light I discovered that the lovely dated texturing was now coated in a fine film of green hops residue in a pattern above the fermenter I can only describe as similar in shape to that of a blast from a sawed off shotgun. After that we decided it best to haul all the batches downstairs (3 flights of stairs!!) into the storage unit in the basement where the temperature was more conducive to brewing.
A few more attempts, some actual reading of instructions, blogs, books, etc., we eventually learned that we could indeed not only make beer, but make some really tasty brews. The box of ingredients was eventually replaced by elaborate grain, hops and yeast orders and the not so sanitary pot was replaced by stainless steel kettles.
Many of the items in our brewery hold some nostalgic value to us. For example, the old milk tank that is now used as a mash tub and water storage tank has been in my family since 1983. It was purchased by my father as part of his dairy business. It served my parents in its original purpose until they sold off their dairy in 1995. Somehow or other it was not sold off with the rest of the dairy equipment and was moved to an old barn only used for storage.
The bar top for our brewery is made using wood from trees up near South Fork, Colorado that had fallen victim to the Mountain Pine beetles. Unlike standard pine lumber this has gray-blue streaks and lines from a fungus that is spread by the pine beetles and keeps the trees from producing sap and eventually causes the tree to die.
My grandparents and I recovered several loads of this wood and used my grandfather's small mill to cut the slabs you see in the bar top today.