Patrons enjoy a mellow atmosphere at WeldWerks Brewing in Greeley. Joel Blocker for BizWest

Thirst for success – WeldWerks brews heady growth, national reputation

Weldwerks Brewing Co.GREELEY — With more than 350 craft breweries located in Colorado — more than 10 percent of the nation’s number of craft breweries — it’s clear that the state loves good beer.

A brewery’s success depends on more than good beer, however, according to Neil Fisher, head brewer at WeldWerks Brewing Co.  Knowing the business end of things and setting up shop in the right place equally play into the role of success, including being named by USA Today as best new brewery nationwide in early 2016.

In terms of location choice, the community of Greeley welcomed WeldWerks with open arms in 2015 and hasn’t turned back, he said.

WeldWerks’ appeal includes plenty of space to spread out, combined with good brews to imbibe. The brewery encompasses 7,000 square feet, with almost half of that devoted to socializing and sipping space.

“Our taproom is large for a small brewery,” he added.  “People are mostly taken by the comfort of the space and how inviting it is.”

Keeping locals happy accounts for the startup steadiness WeldWerks experienced, but the company’s current success goes well beyond who walks into the brewery’s front door.  One-half of the customers who purchase WeldWerks beers hail from the Denver area, with the other half coming from Northern Colorado at large.

Its beers are on tap in 150 locations along the Front Range, with retail cans hitting the market by the end of this year.

Getting products to those shops is a process WeldWerks benefits from the personal touch for which the brewery has become known.

“We self-distribute and just added another van to our fleet,” Fisher said.  “We’ll probably outgrow doing that at some point, but I think it’s been part of our success with internal staff being behind products, and customers being able to speak directly to us.”

WeldWerks recently made a change that modifies the way it sends beer home with customers, building on the other point to which Fisher credits his success: consistent quality.

The brewery is following a lead credited to Longmont’s Oscar Blues Brewery.  It has replaced the takeaway beer glass growler with a 32-ounce, machine-sealed, aluminum can take-away — otherwise known as a crowler.

Problems WeldWerks and other brewers have had with growlers stem from the sometimes less-than-sanitized return containers.  Refilling them easily contaminated the fresh brew.

Crowlers, on the other hand, are sealed on-site, making sure the beer isn’t exposed to oxygen or light before it’s cracked open.  The process assures that customers will have a consistently good carbonated drink, minus off flavors.

Being able to pre-fill the crowlers also helps staff stay focused on in-house customers.  With sales and customers continuing to increase, employees have their hands full with onsite demands, including keeping up with the new beers that are released at least once a week.

The brewery keeps about 10 beers on tap and year-round serves up three styles: Juicy Bits, a New England IPA; Puesta del Sol, a Vienna lager; and Hefeweizen, a wheat beer.

“We’ve always been committed to quality,” Fisher said.  “We’ve dumped about five to six batches — 15 barrels that cost thousands in ingredients much less retail value — because they didn’t meet our standards.”

The benefit of sticking to the commitment is that people know the brewery’s value, he added.  “We delay releases and make sure our best beers go out to even really small festivals.”

WeldWerks opened in 2015 with just under 600 barrels and is closing out 2016 with just under 2,000.

“We’ve grown 300 percent from last year to this year,” Fisher said.  “We can scale our own growth now, so we’re focusing on infrastructure systems to be ready to jump to 5,000 barrels and launch into retail liquor stores.”

Because of the reinvestment plan, he expects 2017 growth to level out at 40 percent to 100 percent.

With a future that looks good, Fisher tips his hat to all the successful breweries that have laid the groundwork.  “We’ve really built on that background.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a better beer culture than in Colorado,” he said.

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