Rich history and selection at Periodic Brewing in Leaville
Through the White River National Forest, over Tennessee Pass and just a hop skip and a jump past Red Cliff lies the town of Leadville.
While technically not it Eagle County, Leadville isn’t far enough away to make any excuses not to visit. You could go to the Tabor Oprah House, Turquoise Lake, Prospect Mountain or, if you’re like me, Periodic Brewing.
“I think it was my brother’s idea (to start the brewery) more than mine,” said Evan Labbe.
The brewery was started by brothers Chris and Evan and their wives, Pam and Bethany, respectively, and Chris’ college roommate, Matt Kostelnik.
Bros before codes
Before officially opening, Chris and Evan Labbe had both been home brewing for a time.
“When he approached me,” Evan Labbe said, talking about getting the brewery started, “I thought, ‘Well, I don’t love the software world, lets do this.’”
“We knew this place when it was Rosie’s Brewpub before,” Evan Labbe said. Rosie’s, for better or worse, closed in 2009. Boomtown Brewpub also occupied the building in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
To boot, it’s one of the biggest buildings in Leadville.
The building was originally built in the 1860s or 1870s and was originally a wood framed, mud silt single-story church.
Currently, it has a very large second-story thanks to the Alpaca Wool Co. renovating the building in the ’70s.
The name, Periodic Brewing, was “a group effort,” according to Labbe. Everyone knew they had to stick with the “Pb” — the scientific nomenclature on the periodic table of elements for lead.
“That’s how Leadville has identified itself,” Evan Labbe said. “Brewing was the obvious choice for the ‘b,’ so we went through a lot of names — Peak, Prospector — and some had already been taken or didn’t fit very well. But as I was driving through town, thinking about the elemental nature of the town, the geology sciences of the college, the mine that is just outside of town, I pitched (Periodic) to the rest of the owners.”
And that was that.
Before Evan Labbe started pouring a flight of beers to talk about, I asked his wife Bethany to try and decide what beers he would choose to best represent the brewery and what they make, and she was right: Evan decided on their Kolsch, amber, IPA and black ale beers.
Beer names are funny things.
They are usually a combination of puns and influences from the surrounding town and the brewer. Periodic Brewing is no different.
Take for example the Sugarloaf amber ale, a malty, biscuity beer named so for a section of the Leadville 100 race or Sugarloaf Mountain.
Or the light and crispy kolsch-style ale, named, aptly, Bleidorf Kolsch.
“(The kolsch) is one of our favorites,” Evan Labbe said. “Our family ancestry is from Germany, so the Kolsch, which comes from that town, is kind of near and dear to our hearts …”
The Tourmaline black ale, a quizzically dark beer with a hoppy bitterness to it, was named after the mineral mined in the area.
Other names, however, earn their respective badges out of whimsy.
Uncrushable, the English stout style, beer is named after a convenient mistake.
“It was a screw up,” Evan Labbe said. “We wanted to brew our Russian imperial stout; we had our ingredients together and our grain mill broke down so we couldn’t crush the grain.”
The grain they were going to use is a hard and pebble-like and difficult to crush. And now they had to try and crush 100 pounds of the stuff before they could finish the beer.
“So we got bags and two-by-fours and four-by-fours and hand crushed it best we could,” Evan Labbe said. “It took us about four hours … It came out with a totally different flavor and ended up being Uncrushable.”
The beer was a hit, both with the brewers and people who tasted it.
“People loved it,” said Evan Labbe. “They loved it so much we knew we had to make it again so we had to reverse engineer the screw up without having to crush it by hand again.”
They haven’t had to crush it by hand again since, and Evan Labbe still has video proof of the hard labor that was exhibited that afternoon.
One last question: What’s in the safe?
Inside the brewhouse sits a red, presumably 1,000-pound safe, which, according to Evan Labbe, is “far older than (the) building.”
“We don’t know,” Evan Labbe said.
Sitting (potentially) on a goldmine
“We have a line on the guy with the code to the safe,” Evan Labbe said. “He was a locksmith here in town but he doesn’t live here any more. I think I’m going to go buy a $12 stethoscope and I bet I could crack it.”
According to the design on the safe, it’s a Wells Fargo and it was designed for usage on trains.
“I met a guy two days ago who bought a house and had an identical safe in it sitting in the basement,” Labbe said. “He said it was really easy to get into and inside was several German books. They started to leaf through them and about every third page was a German $100 bill. Thousands and thousands of dollars of old German money.”
And no one has opened the safe in Periodic Brewing before, either, Evan Labbe said.
Time to get crackin’.