Vail Valley Bizwatch: Bonfire Brewing in Eagle
Vail, CO, Colorado
Business name: Bonfire Brewing.
Location: We’re at 127 Second Street, Eagle.
Date opened: Nov. 15.
Owners: Andy Jessen and Matt Wirtz.
What goods or services do you provide? Bonfire Brewing makes beer on a three-barrel hand-made system, and sells it by the pint, in growlers, and limited numbers of kegs. We do it all out of our Second Street location, where customers can enjoy shuffleboard, darts, and bumper pool while sampling our brews. We also sell awesomeness, but have had a hard time with pricing and packaging it to go.
What’s new or exciting at your place? We’re actually open! A few days ago we unlocked the front door and let a few friends know we were now capable of pouring them a beer. The response has been phenomenal, and we’ll open the doors even wider for our grand opening Dec. 11.-
What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition? One of the interesting aspects of the brewing industry is the sense that we’re all in this together.-The more good beer that gets out there, the more the craft brewing industry can grow and chip away at the market share of the Big Three. As a result, most small breweries will do whatever they can to help one another out – whether it’s borrowing a tap handle, offering unfiltered advice, or collaborating on events. The fact that beer makes most people feel warm and fuzzy probably helps.
At our brewery, we’re making good beer, but we’re also trying to build a community around the entire concept. From the very inception of the idea, we wanted a place for people to gather comfortably – something that would strengthen the business and social fabric of the town and the valley. We hope that resonates in everything we do. If not, at least we have free wireless Internet.-
What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? What can your customers expect from you? Everyone is a potential customer. Our co-workers, our Facebook friends, our government officials, our neighbors, and our neighbor’s dogs. We’re making a product for all of them, although so far there hasn’t been a dog capable of producing a government-issued ID. We make the beer we like to drink, but we’re also the ones standing behind the bar every day, listening to the wants and desires of those on the other side.-We can take a recipe suggestion or idea, and turn it into reality in a few weeks. That’s exciting for us, and rewarding for the customer.-We probably won’t make that peanut butter pineapple ale, though.
Tell us a little about your background, education and experience: The two managing partners in the business are Matt Wirtz and Andy Jessen. Matt graduated from Penn State with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Recreation Management, and has lived in the valley for over a decade. His extraordinary technical expertise allowed the company to save thousands of dollars while he served as the general contractor for the remodeling of our space, constructed the brewing system by hand, and of course, made the beer.-
Over the course of the last two years, Matt honed his homebrew recipes to the point where they couldn’t in good conscience be contained to 10 gallon batches – the idea of commercial brewing was born shortly thereafter.
Andy is a 2007 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and serves as the legal and accounting backbone for the company. After seven years of education, his palette for beer has developed quite well. He is also good at picking out paint colors and owns a Subaru BRAT, making it tough to put a cap on his true value to the company.-
What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened? The chalkboard wall is a consistent source of entertainment.- Also, there was a jackalope hunt and one of the bathroom doors fell off.-
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