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RBC I Crafted in-house with 14 varieties of locally grown hops, the beers on tap at Meeker’s newest social destination, “the brewery,” is a big hit with locals and visitors alike according to owners Kevin and Kristofer Borchard.
“We’ve done really well for the first week, [we] sold just over 15 kegs worth of beer in the first week,” said Kristofer over his first round of “Two Headed Caddis,” one of multiple beer varieties currently available at the brewery. “It’s a huge relief,” he said, noting how pandemic-related shut downs, supply-chain disruptions and other challenges all pushed back the opening of the brewery. “Pretty much everything that got shipped in was late or broken,” reflected Kris, gesturing to the taproom’s freshly installed garage door, and other items like fermenters, all affected by supply-chain and other shipping issues. Staffing shortages also pushed back approvals from state and federal licensing authorities.
Despite the challenges, the brothers’ long-time dream of a community-oriented brewery is now a reality, complete with a White River/angler themed taproom featuring art commissioned by local artist Ben Quinn, rods, reels and lures suspended in translucent epoxy countertops, an open view of the brewing equipment and process, a (formerly broken) garage door that opens up to outdoor seating, and friendly community faces on both sides of the counter any given day of the week.
It’s not just locals enjoying the destination, according to Kevin Borchard. Be they hunters scouting locations, brewery enthusiasts, bonafide beer connoisseurs or just people passing through, the out-of-town crowd has been frequent. “We’ve had some people post on Facebook that they were here to check it out from Grand Junction, so I think there are people that will come into Meeker just to check it out,” said Kevin, who also expressed surprise and gratitude for the support shown by ranchers and other longtime residents of the community.
Kris reflected on recent conversations with people being introduced to some quality local beers for the first time, “One guy we had said ‘all I drink is Coors Lite’ and he had the Vishawk and was just like all right, now I found another beer I’ll drink,’ and he’ll plan on coming back just because of that.”
Both Kevin and Kristofer attributed the brewery’s success thus far to an outpouring of community interest and support, the locally grown hops, and of course their head brewer, Tyler Frye. “Honestly I couldn’t be more happy that we got him, I’m so amazed how it turned out,” said Kevin, emphasizing how impressed he has been with Frye’s work.
“He on a whim said ‘yeah I’ll come check you guys out,’ we didn’t have anything to show him, so he kinda took a big risk on us, [he] had to convince his wife but now she’s a doctor up at the hospital, so we got two awesome new members to our town here,” said Kevin.
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“It’s a lot of science, and art, and that’s what I like about it,” reflected head brewer Tyler Frye who came to the job after being approached by the Borchards last year. “They said hey we’ve got this nine acre hop farm, we got 14 varieties of hops, and we can give you complete creative control, and I think that was a big one for me” said Frye, noting that an emphasis on community also drew him in “I was really down with that and excited about that because I’m really community oriented,” he said.
Touting multiple science degrees, Frye’s prior experience also includes stints selling insurance (his most recent job), teaching high school chemistry, and even conducting research on subjects like cancer, vaccines, infectious diseases, regenerative biology and more. That variety of specialized knowledge and associated skillsets, along with a genuine passion for the work are what allow Frye to brew successfully–a process which involves chemistry, engineering, hydraulics, quality control, and the creative itch of an artist. “If you would have told me six months ago I’d be here, with my own beer on tap in Meeker, Colorado, I would have laughed,” said Frye, noting that the job got him where he wanted to be faster than he might have expected. He said in prior brewing work he hadn’t been able to fully take the reins, something he now gets to do on a day-to-day basis.
That level of control over the creative process seems to be paying off not just for Frye, but for the brewery and the community, especially those members of the community who love high-quality, locally sourced, locally brewed beer.
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Those who keep coming back into the future can expect new beers to try, including a fresh Pilsner that’s been “cooking for a month and a half,” two fresh-hopped IPAs, winter ales and more. Social butterflies will also be happy to hear the new business will host and promote regular events, including an “Oktoberfest” with beer and brats next month. “On a grand scale, we want to use this as a hub for bringing more events to town, triathalons, outdoor events, something during the summer to complement Meekerpalooza and things like that,” said Kevin.
Kris also said clubs can use the space for meetings, noting how the brewery plans to offer special discounts based on active membership numbers.
Contemplating which beer to get on their second round after a full day’s work at Pioneer’s Medical Center, both Kris and Kevin Borchard expressed gratitude for all the support the community has shown the brewery so far.
Located on the corner of First and Market in Meeker Colorado, Smoking River Brewery opens at noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can also swing by any weekday after 4 p.m., just don’t forget to bring your ID, your beer drinkin’ hat, a tip or two for the bartenders, and maybe a few friends.
By LUCAS TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org