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 June 17, 2011

New keg on the block ready to tap

In May, brewers from nine Fort Collins breweries unveiled Fort Collins Collusion 2011 Ale, a collaborative beer created in celebration of American Craft Beer Week. Though they’re technically competitors, cooperation among Fort Collins’ brewers isn’t uncommon, and that’s part of the reason Steve Jones believes his new brewery, Pateros Creek Brewing, will succeed in the city’s expansive microbrew culture.

“There’s a big support network among the breweries,´ said Jones, Pateros’ president and brewer. “I was part of the Collaboration beer and that really encapsulated exactly what craft brewing is all about. If I shoot an email to one of these guys with a question they’d get back to me and say, ‘Here’s what we did.'”

Many of the city’s brewers have helped Jones turn his homebrew hobby into a business. Loveland-based Grimm Brothers Brewhouse contracted with Jones, allowing him to use tank space to prepare for his June 11 grand opening. Several other breweries, including Equinox Brewing and New Belgium Brewing, offered advice and support.

Despite the collegial collaboration, every time a new brewery opens in Fort Collins, people want to know about saturation of the local suds market.

“When you consider all the beer consumed in the U.S., only 5 percent is craft beer,´ said Bryan Simpson of New Belgium. “There’s definitely an opportunity to grow the market. I can’t think of one (local brewery) that isn’t succeeding.”

That goes for the entire industry in the United States. Figures released in March by the Boulder-based Brewers Association showed that in 2010 craft brewing grew by 11 percent by volume and 12 percent by dollar value, compared to 7 percent and 10 percent respectively in 2009. In contrast, overall beer sales were down an estimated 1 percent by volume in 2010.

And the number of breweries operation for some or all of 2010 was the highest since the late 1800s – 1,753 nationwide, according to the Brewers Association.

New brews

Pateros brews four beers – Cache La Porter, Stimulator Pale Ale, Old Town Ale and Lady Moon. Cache La Porter, a brown porter, won several homebrew awards not long after Jones, a former porter hater, developed it.

Stimulator Pale Ale was also an unexpected surprise.

“I was wanting to brew something and didn’t want to buy any ingredients, so I went with the ingredients in my house,” Jones said about creating Stimulator Pale Ale. “I made a beer with it and it turned out to be really good. I continued to make that beer, tweaked the recipe a few times and went back to the original.”

The Old Town Ale is Pateros’ most popular brew. Jones calls it a “lawn mower/hot day” beer.

“I’m not sure success is a matter of standing out as opposed to also creating a great beer,” Jones said. “There’s such a huge market for it that people are excited to see new breweries pop up, and if the beer is quality, I think people will be willing to come back to try someone else’s interpretation of what beer can be.”

While the older breweries represent what Fort Collins has become – innovative, entrepreneurial – Pateros celebrates what it was, each beer named after a little piece of Fort Collins history. The brewery’s name, Pateros Creek, was the original name of the Cache la Poudre River.

Jones is also a Fort Collins original. He went to Fort Collins High School, graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in computer science, got interested in craft beer and got started on his career with a home brewing kit.

“The brewing kind of got out of control,” Jones said. “Things got to a point where my wife said, ‘If you want to do it, do it,’ so I wrote a business plan.”

Creative capital raise

After finishing his business plan in 2008, he asked newer, smaller brewers such as Equinox and Grimm Brothers how to creatively raise capital. The Fort Collins Local Development Co. loaned him $16,000 for building improvements, but local banks turned him down. So in true entrepreneurial fashion, he turned to family and friends, eventually raising about $120,000, the majority of which – $100,000 – came from private investors.

“We actually did find two investors because we were contracted with Grimm Brothers,” Jones said. “We had our beer around in some bars, they tasted and loved it so much they wanted to be a part of it. It’s definitely tough getting money, and for a lot of people, that’s when it’s do or die. You have to go for it and make ends meet the best you can.”

Funding isn’t the only challenge Jones faced. Although local brewers were instrumental in helping Jones, he had a little run-in with CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing in 2009 when the brewer threatened legal action over Pateros’ original name – Horsetooth Brewing Co. CooperSmith’s claimed the name was a copyright infringement on its Horsetooth Stout. Jones doesn’t say much about the issue. He changed the name of his company and has focused on renovating the 242 N. College Ave. building that now houses Pateros’ 10-barrel brewhouse and taproom.

Despite the numerous breweries in Northern Colorado, Jones said the market isn’t saturated.

“The culture is so vibrant and growing,” Jones said. “There’s a large beer culture in town and it’s not just the people who live here. People come from Denver for beer. People come from out of state for beer. There’s a huge draw for the beer we produce. When we were talking to people, most said, ‘We’d love to give you a try because you’re a local company,’ and once you build your local fan base, they help you move further along.”

In May, brewers from nine Fort Collins breweries unveiled Fort Collins Collusion 2011 Ale, a collaborative beer created in celebration of American Craft Beer Week. Though they’re technically competitors, cooperation among Fort Collins’ brewers isn’t uncommon, and that’s part of the reason Steve Jones believes his new brewery, Pateros Creek Brewing, will succeed in the city’s expansive microbrew culture.

“There’s a big support network among the breweries,´ said Jones, Pateros’ president and brewer. “I was part of the Collaboration beer and that really encapsulated exactly what craft brewing is all about. If I shoot an email to one…

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