Brewing, Cideries & Spirits  April 1, 2020

Tunes in their hearts keep Intersect brewing

FORT COLLINS — The music may not be playing at Intersect Brewing during this buttoned-down pandemic era, but the melody lingers on in its music-themed beers.

Gov. Jared Polis’ March 16 order to close the state’s bars and restaurants during the coronavirus crisis meant lights out for the pinball wizards and other classic-rock cravers who used to frequent the spacious spot tucked into a nearly hidden corner of a shopping center behind Safeway on the northwest corner of Drake and Taft Hill roads. But their favorite flavors still flow for carryout in four- and six-packs until normalcy returns.

“If this saves even one life, this is the right thing to do and we support it in spite of the impact on our staff and business,” owners Will and Mandie Herdrick wrote on St. Patrick’s Day in an email to their customers that reflected the sense of community the couple wanted to foster when they opened Intersect Brewing in August 2016.

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If you go

Intersect Brewing

2160 W. Drake Road, Unit A-1
Fort Collins
970-682-2041
Intersectbrewing.com

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That focus has made seeing an empty 2,000-square-foot taproom painful for its owners, who built a family-friendly space complete with a kids’ play area.

In normal times, “we’re 95 percent focused on the taproom because we like to be close to our customers and our community and watch them enjoy it,” said Will Herdrick, who said the other 5 percent got distributed in kegs or cans to 10 or 15 liquor stores.

Head brewer Riley Reid presides over a 3,500-square-foot production area containing four seven-barrel and two 15-barrel fermenters with an annual capacity of 1,500 barrels.

Each tank carries the name of a rock ‘n’ roll star, and most of the beers boast names pulled from classic-rock lyrics. The hoppy “Tramps Like Us” East Coast IPA pulls a line from New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 hit “Born to Run,” for instance, while the “Hollywood Bungalow” blackberry gose recalls The Doors’ 1971 “L.A. Woman” and a mixed-berry hard seltzer is called “Girl, You Know It’s True,” reflecting German pop group Milli Vanilli’s 1988 Top-10 single.

Perhaps more wistfully reflective of current conditions is a malty doppelbock named for Skygaze’s 2019 club tune “Empty Dancefloor.”

Song titles and lyrics also cover some of the taproom walls that aren’t already covered in album art, and some racks are filled with new and used vinyl records for sale.

“I’ve been a music junkie all my life,” Will Herdrick explained, remembering his early days as a garage homebrewer.

“It makes for a very long day. You spend a lot of time out in the garage, and there are a lot of big breaks,” he said. “If you’re brewing by yourself, you need something to do, some inspiration. I always had some music rockin’ out with me in the garage. And then I’d think, ‘What sounds good to brew that would go with this music? So it was a natural transition to bring it to the brewery.”

When it’s open, the bar offers snacks brought in from various local eateries: including Fort Collins’ Pizza Casbah, Matador Mexican Grill, Rocky Mountain Salsa, and Mouco Cheese, and Boulder-based On Tap Kitchen.

Intersect has live music, too — on warmer weekend nights from May into October out on the 5,000-square-foot patio that connects to the taproom and three-sided bar with several garage doors that can be opened. The brewery also hosts bi-weekly bingo nights, spring and fall makers’ markets where such items as handcrafted baked goods and jewelry are sold, an annual party at the end of August to celebrate the brewery’s anniversary, and a kids-themed Halloween party on the last Saturday in October. There also have been events where beers are paired with cupcakes or pies.

That intersection of beer, music and community makes the taproom unique for the Herdricks; hence the name Intersect Brewing. Perhaps that’s a more memorable moniker than the couple’s first choice, Absolute Threshold, which got changed after the makers of Absolut vodka complained.

The last thing Herdrick wanted was to be on the absolute threshold of a career for which he had little passion — trying to manage a 15-state software sales territory.

“I didn’t want to spend another 20 or 30 years on the field I was in,” he said. “I was more interested in doing something I loved, even if it was a sacrifice of money, versus something I didn’t like, for good money.

“When my wife and I started having children” — Ethan and Sienna — “it was like a 180. You stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about your little ones that you’re completely responsible for turning them out into the world eventually, and I started thinking about how I could show them a different path in life versus traditional high school, college, white-collar jobs. I could show them that there are other jobs, and you should pursue your passion regardless of money.”

Raised in Iowa and Missouri by parents who were vegetarians and marathon runners, and enamored by Colorado’s craft-beer lifestyle, Herdrick and his wife moved to Fort Collins to raise their family because of the community’s cultural diversity, full slate of things to do and small-town feel, and knew running a music-themed brewery in a town known for beer, bikes and bands would fit in.

His friends and family gave Herdrick high praise for his homebrewed ales, but “the feedback you always get from your friends and family, you have to take with a grain of salt. They’re not necessarily always honest,” he said. “I started entering some contests and one of my beers was named best in show among 118 beers — so I knew I had the talent.”

He also knew he could run a business, tapping his experience of doing “every imaginable job in restaurants and bars from dishwasher to general manager and everything in between. And I had the sales and marketing from my software decade, and I always had this entrepreneurial spirit,”

Intersect boasts a diverse tap list, Herdrick said. “We try to check off as many of the style boxes as we can, with up to 19 beers on tap — three or four focused on the IPA side and then we mix the rest between lights and darks, one-offs, a couple sours. They’re mostly 4 to 6 percent alcohol by volume because we want people to be able to enjoy a couple pints in the taproom.”

Mandie Herdrick, an oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, uses her microbiology background to provide quality control at a mini-lab in back “to make sure we have some really healthy yeast to make good beer,” Will Herdrick said. “We’re 50/50 in all decisions. She also oversees the taproom and staff, coordinates events and does our social media.”

Beers that go out the door for distribution — and nowadays for carryout — are packaged by Fort Collins-based mobile canning company Rhoadey Canning Solutions.

What’s next for the Herdricks and Intersect?

“We’re pretty content with the way we are,” Will Herdrick said. “I think the industry passed the saturation point a couple of years ago. We just want to focus on the taproom and keep our customers happy.”

And, of course, yearn for the day when those customers can once again fill that taproom and, in the words of Sly and the Family Stone, “Dance to the Music.”

FORT COLLINS — The music may not be playing at Intersect Brewing during this buttoned-down pandemic era, but the melody lingers on in its music-themed beers.

Gov. Jared Polis’ March 16 order to close the state’s bars and restaurants during the coronavirus crisis meant lights out for the pinball wizards and other classic-rock cravers who used to frequent the spacious spot tucked into a nearly hidden corner of a shopping center behind Safeway on the northwest corner of Drake and Taft Hill roads. But their favorite flavors still flow for carryout in four- and six-packs until…

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