Randy Wyrick

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September 17, 2013
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Expansion on tap for pair of Eagle County breweries

EDWARDS — Real Americans are not a complicated lot; if you brew better beer, Real Americans buy it and your business gets bigger.

Take local Crazy Mountain Brewing Company and the Bonfire Brewery, for example. Equipment started arriving Tuesday that will almost double Crazy Mountain’s brewing capacity and add 10 jobs. Crazy Mountain’s growth has topped 300 percent in each of the past two years, the company said.

“Our capacity is completely maxed out and we can barely keep up with orders,” said Zach Schmitz, Crazy Mountain’s national sales director. “While it’s a good problem to have, we need to grow to keep up with demand.”

Speaking of demand, Bonfire Brewery will launch its statewide distribution in two days.

“We’ll be available in every corner of the state,” said Bonfire’s Andy Jessen.

Crazy Mountain’s brewing capacity will increase from 12,000 barrels per year to 20,000 barrels. Right now, they can brew 60 barrels a day. This will increase that to 100 in 24 hours and 124 in 28 hours.

Just so you know, a barrel is 31 gallons. There’ll be a quiz.

Crazy Mountain will add production and packaging jobs and a night shift to brew and bottle/can beer 24 hours a day. Crazy Mountain’s beers are distributed in 14 states from coast to coast, and Sweden and Japan.

Crazy Mountain started brewing beer in 2009 and have been in their Edwards location since 2010.

“We have good beer and we’re grateful that people like drinking it,” said Crazy Mountain’s Stephanie Merritt. “Last time we checked we were one of the fastest growing breweries in America.”

Owner and brewmaster Kevin Selvy was a stock trader in San Francisco and was making beer in his backyard.

“I knew I wanted to open a brewery, and I figured it’d be a good idea if I learned to brew beer,” Selvy said.

He’s an observant fellow and noticed his friends were more interested in his beer than his financial insight. So he brewed beer and gave it to friends. He attracted lots of new friends.

One of those friends went on a sailing trip with a friend who worked for Anchor Brewing, America’s original microbrewery. Selvy’s new Anchor acquaintance called to ask him to interview for an internship, and before you can say, “Let me open that for you,” Selvy was face-to-face with Fritz Maytag, the father of America’s microbrewing industry.

Maytag offered him a job and Selvy grabbed it.

“I went to my high-paying job at 5 a.m. the next morning and quit to take a huge pay cut and start brewing beer,” Selvy said.

Crazy Mountain is named after a mountain on the Selvy family land in Salida.

Local growth

The Vail Valley has three brewpubs: Crazy Mountain Brewery and the Gore Range Brewery in Edwards, and the Bonfire Brewery in Eagle.

Bonfire’s Jessen and Matt Wirtz were roommates when they started brewing beer. Their other roommate moved out but kept paying her rent, so they used her space to make some homebrew.

Andy asked Matt if he could make $500 worth of beer every month they could sell, so they wouldn’t have to have another roommate.

Their brewing operation moved to the garage and they got pretty good at it. They joke that they’ve just moved to a series of bigger garages because they’re on Second Street in Eagle, where the Viking garage used to be. Last November, they cranked up their production facility on Chambers Avenue in Eagle, and that’s how they can go statewide.

Wirtz and Jessen brewed the official beer for Red Cliff’s Man of the Cliff, Wood Splitter. Jessen calls it “Lawn Mower for lumberjacks.”

“It’s in liquor stores and it’s almost gone,” Jessen said.

“They’re saving eight kegs for the event and 10 cases for liquor stores in Red Cliff during the event

They also brewed Gypstoberfest, the official beer of Guypsum’s Oktoberfest.

The Bonfire Boys are making their first professional pilgrimage to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, the biggest beer festival in the country.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

“Our capacity is completely maxed out and we can barely keep up with orders,” said Zach Schmitz, Crazy Mountain’s national sales director. “While it’s a good problem to have, we need to grow to keep up with demand.”

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The VailDaily Updated Sep 18, 2013 04:14PM Published Sep 19, 2013 02:32PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.