Telluride Brewing Company Takes on Front Range
by Martinique Davis
Sep 17, 2012 | 2736 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – If the accomplishments of the year-old Telluride Brewing Company are any indication, the Colorado beer industry is booming.

TBC began canning its first beers just one year ago, and immediately won accolades from beer enthusiasts throughout the region. Those in the know had long-anticipated the next step in Telluride brewmaster Chris Fish’s evolution, and with good reason: the award-winning beer maker joined forces with local educator, bartender, and beer connoisseur Tommy Thacher to create Colorado’s next great beer company.

Within seven months, Telluride’s hometown brewery had claimed a gold medal at the World Beer Cup – the world’s preeminent beer authority – essentially dubbing TBC’s Face Down Brown the zenith of American Style Brown Ales.

Now TBC is poised to take a giant step on its rapid climb up the small business ladder, as its canning operation grows threefold thanks to the addition of a fully automated canner.

The new canner, purchased from Boulder-based Wild Goose Canning Technologies, another small business that’s thriving thanks to the state’s flourishing craft-beer industry, will allow TBC to expand its distribution into the Front Range. While TBC was manually canning its beers, it couldn’t expand fast enough to reach markets further afield than Durango, Montrose and Telluride.

That will all now change. Coming online this week at TBC’s headquarters in Lawson Hill west of Telluride, the automated canner will allow the company to increase its production significantly. While the manual canning operation could only produce a few cans a minute, the new canner will manufacture up to 24 cans a minute – and since the start, Fish admits, the company has been selling cans of beer as fast as they make them.

To keep pace with the growing production, TBC will expand at its Lawson Hill location, taking over the next-door space previously occupied by Tomboy Coffee Roasters, mostly for storage.

For Fish, TBCs growth over the last 12 months has come as a welcome surprise. “I really thought that it would have taken us at least two to three years, for us to get to the point we’re at in just one year,” he says, of plans to expand distribution into the Front Range market by this winter. “And it has everything to do with the local support we’ve had to build from.”

The new canner will essentially enable TBC to maximize the brewery’s existing equipment. After that, the company might add more fermenters, as production expands – creating two new year-round full-time jobs.

“It’s really going to help us ride out the offseason, since there will be a consistent flow of beer going out the door,” Fish says of TBC’s new canning operation.

The next step will be for TBC to begin canning some of its other beers for distribution; next in line is the Tempter IPA, and TBC Art Director John Lehman is now at work on that can design, to be followed by a design for the award-winning Face Down Brown.

TBC, having just unveiled its Wet Hopped American Summer, an American style pale ale brewed with fresh hops sourced from a Montrose farm, is a House of Brews sponsor at this weekend’s Telluride Blues and Brews Festival.

Seeing the young homegrown business take shape represents the culmination of the long-held aspirations of both Fish and Thacher, who met at a Telluride bar where Fish was the brewmaster and Thacher the bartender. At night, they spent long hours discussing their quest for the perfect beer, and their dream of opening a brewery. Thacher went on to teach history at the Telluride Mountain School while Fish perfected his craft, but neither forgot his dream.

“I knew I was going to start my own brewery eventually, and I wanted to make it happen in Telluride, but I didn’t know how realistic that was,” Fish said in an interview last September, going on to explain that after he and Thacher joined forces with Brian Gavin, a local realtor and TBC investor, that the dream took wing.

They started work on the Lawson Hill space in the spring of 2011, slowly transforming it into a state-of-the-art brewery, with an artisan-made American stainless steel brewhouse as the centerpiece.

Telluride Beer Company sells cans, growlers and kegs at its Lawson Hill brewery and Tasting Room. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit for more information.

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