Zach Weakland, head brewer of High Hops Brewery in Windsor, regulates temperature while mashing. Joel Blocker/For BizWest

Gardeners grow fame for Windsor with high hopes for High Hops

WINDSOR — Another microbrewery in Northern Colorado is nothing new. In a figurative sense, the area has proved to be fertile ground for a number of successful craft beer makers. But in the case of one newcomer on the scene, those words hold literal meaning.

The origins of High Hops Brewery go all the way back to the early 1990s, when Pat Weakland and his wife, Amanda, decided to start a gardening business.

“We were selling annuals and perennials out of this little mobile greenhouse in downtown Windsor,” Weakland said. Eventually, they bought a piece of property at 17th Street and Colorado Highway 392 on the west side of town, where they opened the Windsor Gardener in 2000.

Being a seasonal operation, there was a certain amount of “down time” in the fall and winter, so Weakland took up home-brewing as a hobby. Then came the Great Hops Shortage of 2007. According to a report by National Public Radio at the time, it was caused by “… a triple whammy of bad weather in Europe, an increase in the price of barley and a decrease in hops production in the U.S.”

Microbreweries and home-brewers were hit the hardest. But with a gardening background and 10 acres of land at his disposal, Weakland said it was a no-brainer.

“I couldn’t find any hops,” he said, “so I told Amanda, ‘Let’s grow our own.’ ”


High Hops Brewery

Established: 2012

Owners: Pat and Amanda Weakland

Number of employees: 18 (with Windsor Gardener)

Website: highhopsbrewery.com

Phone: 970-674-2841


Within a year and a half, Weakland had nurtured more than 30 different types of hops from small root clippings known as rhizomes, and planted them on two acres just west of the garden center. Not only did they provide a steady supply for his home-brewing endeavors, but sales of the crop also furnished an additional revenue stream for the Windsor Gardener.

As those sales increased, another venture presented itself.

“We thought, in the slow months of the year, why not open up a home-brew shop,” Weakland said. So they started the High Hops Hop Farm and Brew Shop inside the garden center, where they sold home-brewing equipment and ingredients, including the various hops harvested onsite. Weakland and his son, Zach, even gave classes on weekends.

“We’d brew in the greenhouse and come up with a lot of great recipes for beer, so employees at the greenhouse would taste it, customers would come in and sample it, people in the class got to drink it and everyone was super-excited about it.”

With all that enthusiasm over Weakland’s home-brews, opening up a full-blown brewery just seemed like a natural progression. In October 2012, High Hops Brewery made its debut alongside the Windsor Gardener, with a tasting room, a seasonal beer garden and a 2,400-square-foot patio featuring a stage for live music that overlooks the hops fields and the entire Front Range. Since then, business has been on a steady upward path.

High Hops Brewery in Windsor had its official grand opening on Oct. 19, 2012. in 2013 they won the Peoples Choice Award at the Gnarly Barley Brew Festival. Joel Blocker / For BizWest

“In 2013, we produced 600 barrels of beer,” Weakland said. “We’re forecasting almost 2,500 barrels this year.”

A recent expansion was made to accommodate the growing clientele, and High Hops’ reputation appears to be putting Windsor on the craft beer map.

“It’s amazing how you drive by there every night and the parking lot is full of cars,” said Michal Connors, executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce. “It’s becoming a very popular hot spot in town.”

According to Connors, the company’s suds are turning up at more and more events around the community.

“They even created a beer for Windsor’s 125th anniversary,” she said. “I think they’ve really partnered with the community and the residents and business owners, definitely making a name for themselves.”

That name is gaining recognition well beyond Windsor’s borders. High Hops already is being distributed across South Dakota, and is just now getting a foothold in Nebraska. Weakland said they also sell to Tivoli Distributing in Colorado, as well as American Eagle Distributing, which was just purchased by Anheuser Busch.

“We have eight different 22-ounce ‘bombers’ that we sell, and we have four different beers we sell in cans,” he said. Those canned brews include a pale ale, a lemon pilsner, a milk stout and a red ale.

Weakland is fully aware that he has some stiff competition just across Interstate 25, but feels there’s room for everybody.

“All this interest and this passion that people put into these businesses is making craft brewing more accessible and making it a fun environment,” he said. “Everybody’s got a new twist, and everybody’s unique, and everyone has a cool story about how they got into the business. … Every place has its own personality.”

Does this mean Windsor could become the next trendy town? With a local winery also in the works, Connors thinks it’s a possibility.

“You know, someone gets it started,” she said, “and then others say, ‘Maybe we should look at Windsor.’ So I think we may see more on the way.”

WINDSOR — Another microbrewery in Northern Colorado is nothing new. In a figurative sense, the area has proved to be fertile ground for a number of successful craft beer makers. But in the case of one newcomer on the scene, those words hold literal meaning.

The origins of High Hops Brewery go all the way back to the early 1990s, when Pat Weakland and his wife, Amanda, decided to start a gardening business.

“We were selling annuals and perennials out of this little mobile greenhouse in downtown Windsor,” Weakland said. Eventually, they bought a piece of property at 17th Street and Colorado Highway 392 on the west side of town, where they opened the Windsor Gardener in 2000.

Being a seasonal operation, there was a certain amount of “down time” in the fall and winter, so Weakland took up home-brewing as a hobby. Then came the Great Hops Shortage of 2007. According to a report by National Public Radio at the time, it was caused by “… a triple whammy of bad weather in Europe, an increase in the price of barley and a decrease in hops production in the U.S.”

Microbreweries and home-brewers were hit the hardest. But with a gardening background and 10 acres of land at his disposal, Weakland said it was a no-brainer.

“I couldn’t find any hops,” he said, “so I told Amanda, ‘Let’s grow our own.’ ”


High Hops Brewery

Established: