Brewing, Cideries & Spirits  February 5, 2020

City Star shines as Berthoud gathering place

BERTHOUD — In a region where craft-brewery taprooms are almost as prolific as coffee shops, what’s the key to success?

For City Star Brewing, said co-owner Whitney Taylor Way, it’s “focusing on our community, just being a part of the town. That’s part of being a taproom.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the brewery constantly turns out new beverages, thanks to suggestions from Whitney’s husband John Way, lead brewer Scott Clutter, customers and even local farmers. But the Ways also have been growing City Star’s historic home as a focal point in the town for live music and charitable events.

“We do beer and food pairings, chocolate and beer pairings on Valentine’s Day, a full sit-down beer dinner at the end of March, a Chinese New Year event and a winter solstice event,” Whitney Way said. “We also do Flap Jack Day on Labor Day weekend to benefit the Berthoud Historical Society. It was a Berthoud tradition, but we kind of reinvented it in 2015 with a breakfast beer flight and made it a throwback with ‘50s attire.

“We do an annual festival in June called Hops and Harley, which is all about craft beers and dogs. That one benefits Harley’s Dream, a nonprofit that works to end puppy mills,” she said. “We’ve coordinated with the Little Thompson Observatory, the Wildfire Arts studio — there are always little things that pop up.”

When BizWest visited the taproom, the Ways were preparing to host a chili cookoff to benefit Rural Alternatives For Transportation (RAFT), a volunteer driver program that provides free rides to older adults and those with disabilities.

The Ways also welcome food trucks that park in front of City Star on Berthoud’s main commercial street, Mountain Avenue.

The brewery’s original building, built in 1913, started as the City Star Barn livery and stables, one of two in the town at the time. It then housed an auto dealership run by “Sim” Jeffers, the Lincoln Highway Café, and — for several decades — Dean’s Furniture.

Whitney’s parents, Dan and Rudi Taylor, bought the building in 2011. Its west side would become Wishful Things, their retail gift shop, with a warehouse in back that stocks imported beads. The Taylors offered to rent the building’s other half to Whitney and her soon-to-be husband, John, an aspiring homebrewer who had taken an entry-level job with Oskar Blues’ brewery in Lyons but wanted to open his own brewery and taproom. They all then worked to rehabilitate the century-old structure.

“We reused several pieces from the original building,” Whitney Way said. “We’ve made tables with some of the original flooring, and we have a train rail tie along the front of the bar. John designed and made a large chandelier from one oak barrel.

“We’ve done as much as we can ourselves,” she said. “It’s like our first child.”

The rehab project was so successful that the Jeffers Building won the 2012 Governor’s Award for best adaptive rehabilitation of a historic building, Dan Taylor said, “which, in layman’s terms, means that we restored the building and put it to use instead of it just sitting there and looking pretty.”

The Ways opened the taproom on May 4, 2012, as Berthoud’s first craft brewery, and then were able to expand by purchasing another century-old building to the east. That adjoining space, completed in 2017, now includes a smaller indoor seating area, an expansive back patio and the “Zoller Barrel House,” a front room that long ago had housed Jake Zoller’s shoe shop and now is lined with beer and whiskey barrels.

The back patio has a stage for live music and features a wooden fence along which hops are grown for the beers. Opposite the fence is a mural by prolific Longmont-based artist Gamma Acosta on the wall of City Star’s original building.

Behind that wall is City Star’s brewhouse, which features a 3.5-barrel (100 gallon) direct fire brew system, fermentation tanks, a whirlpool vessel, a chilling system, cold rooms and an oak barrel aging program.

The three years it took to expand to the east led the Ways to refocus their energies on their taproom and move away from wholesaling.

“We’re constantly changing, evolving,” Whitney Way said. “If we upgrade to a seven-barrel system, we could increase our capacity. That’s still small, but it would give us an opportunity to brew a larger variety of beers and experiment.”

Variety has never been a problem for City Star, which has released nearly four dozen different brews. Behind the bar are 10 taps featuring five mainstays — Cowboy’s Golden, All American IPA, Sim’s Red, Bandit Brown and Night Watchman — along with a constantly changing array of brews with names such as Deadwood, Scoundrel and Widow Maker.

“Some of our customers love drinking the same beers all the time and some want to try new things,” she said. “Some of the new ones are from John’s initial inspirations and some ideas come from the staff” — which hovers around 10 employees — “or from cooking, or from people who grow locally, like our malt supplier, Root Shoot Malting. We’ve used local juniper, Colorado peaches, and last year a gentleman came in who had harvested close to 50 pounds of rhubarb that we put into a beer. On St. Patrick’s Day we’ve done Lucky Charms beer flights, using natural adjuncts like hibiscus and cucumbers to achieve different colors. It all comes back to having fun with it, really.”

City Star beers have won three medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including a gold in 2013 for Bandit Brown in the English-style brown ale category, a bronze in 2013 for Mule Kick in the old/strong ale category, and a bronze in 2015 for the Night Watchman robust porter.

Other than eventual expansion of their brewing system, Whitney Way said, City Star’s young owners plan to keep “focusing on our community, and just being a part of the town. My husband and I lived in Lyons when we opened City Star, but the brewery really brought us to Berthoud, and now we live a block away.

“We just want to keep an eye on quality, on trends, and on remaining authentic.”

BERTHOUD — In a region where craft-brewery taprooms are almost as prolific as coffee shops, what’s the key to success?

For City Star Brewing, said co-owner Whitney Taylor Way, it’s “focusing on our community, just being a part of the town. That’s part of being a taproom.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the brewery constantly turns out new beverages, thanks to suggestions from Whitney’s husband John Way, lead brewer Scott Clutter, customers and even local farmers. But the Ways also have been growing City Star’s historic home as a focal point in the town for live…

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