Crazy for good brew in Vail Valley
VAIL, Colorado -During a tour of the Heineken factory in Amsterdam, Vail brewer Kevin Selvy, 26, had a revelation. He didn’t want to spend his life in front of a computer, trading stocks and bonds, no matter how much money he’d bring home.He wanted to brew beer and he wanted to do it in Vail. There was only one small problem: Selvy, then a recent graduate of Colorado State University, had just accepted a job at Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco. In fact, he was backpacking through Europe thanks to a signing bonus. So he caught a plane back, as planned, and went to work. But he started brewing beer at home and relentlessly studying the craft brewing business every spare moment. “I was making so much beer I was giving it away,” Selvy said. That’s how some of Selvy’s beer ended up in Fritz Maytag’s hands, or rather, his mouth. Maytag is the former owner of Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, one of the first craft brewers in the United States.”Fritz basically started the craft brewing industry,” Selvy said.Selvy interviewed with Maytag and later that afternoon was offered a job making beer at Anchor Brewing.Driving around San Fran, Selvy wrestled with the decision. He talked to his mom, who told him to go for it, and then heard a song on the radio that spoke to him, he said. “There was a line that said ‘I can’t believe we’d lie in our graves and wonder what might have been.'” That pushed Selvy over the edge. “I went into my job the next day at 5 a.m. and quit. Everyone thought I was crazy. I took a massive pay cut.”But Selvy knew this was what he had to do to attain his dream – opening his own brewery in Vail. Which is just what he’s done. Selvy, who grew up in Parker, debuted Crazy Mountain Brewery at the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival in Vail in January. He started selling his beer to local bars and restaurants two months ago. “I knew I wanted to move here,” he said during an interview at Loaded Joe’s in Avon last week. “The Vail Valley was a beer culture that hadn’t blossomed yet. I wanted to be the spark that turned the area into a beer destination like Fort Collins.”
So far that spark seems to be catching on. In just seven weeks, Selvy has picked up nine accounts and expects more as soon as the off season ends and some restaurants open back up. “I’m surprised by how well we’ve done in six weeks,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy for the new guys on the block to be selling this much beer.”Thanks to a keg in the back of his van, Selvy lets his beer do the talking. He goes to local restaurants, fills up a growler and walks in. “It’s funny because sometimes there’s these big beer reps there with their laptops and fancy setups, and I show up with a growler and a notebook,” he said, smiling.When you have a good product, you don’t need a PowerPoint. “Beer that’s made by hand just really tastes better,” he said.So far two beers are being served around town – a crisp, refreshing wit beer and a hoppy amber ale. Selvy plans to release more this summer, the first of which will be a black ale in July. “It tastes like a pale ale but is jet black,” Selvy said. Selvy also plans for an IPA, a Belgian ale and a seasonal saison beer come fall.
Each beer is paired with a local non-profit; the wit is matched up with the Eagle Watershed Council and the amber with the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. “We like beer, and we love their commitment to community, to the extent they incorporated it into their business model,” said Matt Scherr of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. “Beer has traditionally been a very local phenomenon through the ages. Local is not just green from an energy perspective; local is green from a community perspective.”One percent of the proceeds from each beer goes back to its parent organization. “The idea is that if we take care of our community, our community will take care of us,” Selvy said. “And it keeps our heads on straight.”Although Selvy was brewing his beer at a location on Metcalf Road in Avon, that building recently sold. Until their new location at the Northstar Center in Edwards opens, Selvy’s been driving to Fort Collins, where he’s leasing equipment to brew the current production of 90 kegs a month. The new location will include a tasting room, which will hopefully be open to the public by August. By fall, Selvy hopes to be bottling 22-ounce bombers, and by next spring, canning his suds. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.