In one of Colorado’s quintessential beer towns, some industry veterans are working to bring to life their version of a new limb on the craft brewing family tree. It’s called a “brewstillery,” and though this one is slated for Boulder, its recipes will come from the Western Slope.
The team behind Durango’s Ska Brewing Co. and Palisade’s Peach Street Distillers last week announced plans for “Ska Street Brewstillery,” a mashup of the two businesses that would take over Fate Brewing Co.’s space at 1600 38th St. in east Boulder.
If everything goes as planned, Ska Street could be pouring 30 varieties of Ska beers and mixing specialty cocktails with Peach Street spirits for Front Rangers by spring of 2020, said Dave Thibodeau a co-founder and partner in both companies. The establishment would also serve food based on the menus in both Palisade and Durango, sourcing as many ingredients in Boulder County as possible.
“We’ve actually been talking about this concept for a while because we’ve wanted to integrate our distillery with our brewery a little bit more going forward,” Thibodeau said on Friday. “We’ve always wished we had a physical presence on the Front Range so we could connect more deeply with consumers as well our customers that sell our beer up there.”
The new project, first reported by Jonathan Shikes in Westword, checks both boxes.
Before Ska Street can open, Thibodeau and his partners will have to jump through some regulatory hoops. They’ve started the zoning review process with the city of Boulder, Thibodeau said. State and local brewpub and distillery pub licensing applications wait beyond that.
For the whole thing to work, Ska and Peach Street will be giving up their manufacturing-scale brewing and distilling licenses, a measure that would cap Ska’s annual production at 60,000 barrels of beer. That shouldn’t have an impact on distribution, Thibodeau said. Ska makes about 30,000 barrels a year today.
Boulder has numerous brewpubs and a few distilleries but so far no businesses that combine the two, Mishawn Cook, the city’s licensing administrator, said in an email Friday. There is at least one example, however, elsewhere in the state. CBS4 last week reported on The Dean West Restaurant & Brewstillery, a business operating in Kremmling.
Thibodeau and fellow Wheat Ridge High School alum Bill Graham partnered with Matt Vincent to launch Ska Brewing in 1995. Thibodeau and Graham are also part of the ownership group for Peach Street, which opened in 2005.
They had been eyeing a Front Range outpost for years but knew they didn’t have the money for a ground-up project, Thibodeau said. Their expansion comes at a time when craft beer sales are flattening out across the country and industry institutions like Boulder Beer Co. are scaling back distribution and downsizing.
The Boulder project was made possible in part by another brewery’s end. Fate Brewing shut down for good in May after declaring bankruptcy in 2018. The Ska team put in a bid on Fate’s assets at a state auction and won, taking on everything including a 10-barrel brewing system already in place at the brewpub on 38th Street. Ska’s chief operations office Steve Breezley, formerly with Boulder’s Avery Brewing Co., knew Fate’s landlord, which made assuming the lease that much easier, Thibodeau said.
“I hate to say it, it’s not the best business advice to give to anybody, but we do operate on our gut a lot. (The auction) just made it perfect for us,” Thibodeau said.
He praised the work Fate did on the space. He said the 7,000-square-foot space will allow for a lot of experimenting.
“There will be more beers and more Peach Street spirits than we even have at our already existing locations,” he said.
Hiring for the Boulder location could start in the next few months. Along with Breezley, Dustin LeMoine, another former Avery staffer who is now the director of sales for Peach Street, is helping drive the operation there.
“Everything just feels right in Boulder,” Thibodeau said, “as intimidating as it is to me.”