But in the world of chain restaurants, Smuggler’s Brewpub stands apart.
You won’t find “bloomin’ onions,” frou-frou drinks or a wait staff wearing matching suspenders. A place like Smuggler’s doesn’t need gimmicks to garner a loyal following because it has something all other chain restaurants lack: house-brewed, award-winning beer. And now, lots of it.
Smuggler’s Grand Junction location, adjacent to the Mesa Mall, marks a major turning point for the company as it will soon more than double its production of award-winning beer, keeping patrons happily sated.
“We’re different because we make something,” says owner Mike Metz, who attributes Smuggler’s growing popularity in the region to consistent food, but above all else, really good, locally brewed beer.
Nine other national chain restaurants vied for the 4,700-square-foot building next to the Olive Garden in Grand Junction, in the space previously occupied by Krispy Kreme donuts. Yet the Grand Junction planning department ultimately granted Smuggler’s the go-ahead to move in. The space, which is currently being remodeled but will likely be ready for business by mid to late November, will boast a two-story bar, a 1,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden, and an expansive indoor dining area.
What the Grand Junction Smuggler’s won’t include is an in-house brewery. Like the Smuggler’s in Montrose, the Grand Junction location will serve as a restaurant only, the original brewery in the basement of the Smuggler’s in Telluride continuing to serve as the sole supplier of Smuggler’s beer.
Chris Fish, head brewmaster at Smuggler’s, says the expansion to Grand Junction will require three more fermentors be added to the Telluride brewery. This will allow Smuggler’s to increase its beer-making capacity from close to 1,300 barrels a year to more than 2,400 barrels a year. “It’s a huge jump,” Fish says of the brewery’s expansion. Keeping the brewery in its original location will ensure that Smuggler’s beer, which has won various awards including two medals from the illustrious Great American Beer Festival, will maintain its high quality. “It’s still going to be small-batch beer, made from high mountain water, so we can keep the quality consistent,” Fish says.
Smuggler’s has received accolades from regional aficionados as well as being recognized on the national level. In addition to the bronze and gold medals Fish’s Rocky Mountain Rye won at the Great American Beer Festival in 2003 and 2005, Smuggler’s Brewpub in Telluride was named #4 on Skiing Magazine’s Top Five Mountain Brewpubs in the nation in September 2005. Smuggler’s has been hounding the beer festival circuit, gaining recognition as one of Colorado’s finest small town breweries.
Smuggler’s beer will be shipped to its Montrose and Grand Junction locations via truck. Fish says the expansion will turn the Telluride-based brewery into a seven-day-a-week production. Two more brewmasters will be hired to help oversee the increase.
To celebrate Smuggler’s evolution, the brewery will be rolling out a brand new beer, the Saison de Fish. According to its creator, the new Smuggler’s brew will be a Belgium-style beer, which represents what Fish says is “the next step in the evolution of taste” for beer connoisseurs accustomed to American and English-influenced brews. The Saison de Fish will be available in Telluride only starting in mid-August, but will eventually make it to the taps at Montrose and Grand Junction as well.