Doug DeShazo is on the cusp of filling one of the biggest and stubbornest holes on the Colorado brewery map.
With a population of 374 and an elevation of 8,661 feet, Lake City, located midway between Gunnison and South Fork on the eastern flank of the San Juans, hasn't had a brewery for more than a century. But DeShazo and his wife, Diane, are changing that with Lake City Brewing Company, a new brewpub that will open by the end of 2017 if all goes according to plan.
A semi-retired chiropractor who moved from Palmer, Alaska, to Lake City in 2015, DeShazo says the lack of a local brewery hit close to home. "Our go-to type of place is a brewpub," he says. "When we lived in Anchorage, we'g go to Glacier Brewhouse and Moose's Tooth."
So one fateful evening in mid-2016, the DeShazos "commiserated that Lake City needed a brewpub" and the couple decided to make the leap. They bought a parcel of land in the town center and broke ground on a brewpub in June 2017. The finished product will feature a four-barrel brewing system, eight taps, and a kitchen that Doug's brother, Dale, will operate.
While DeShazo first thought he'd open the place earlier in the year, he's happy to have the opportunity to fine-tune the operation and high-elevation brewing recipes in the winter and spring before the summer hordes arrive in 2018. "It's been a slow process, but we're okay with it," says DeShazo. "The most entertaining part of the process has been the market research where we have to eat food and drink beer."
He's thinking the menu will evolve to include four year-round beers alongside four seasonals and special releases as well as gourmet hot dogs and bratwurst from the kitchen. "I'm an IPA and pale ale fan, but I also like maltier beers like Scotch ales and heavier Irish reds," says Doug. As far as the food goes, a jalapeno-cheese elk dog is a likely staple, but DeShazo adds, "I don’t think we'll have anything with armadillo in it."
After homebrewing and taking a class through the American Brewers Guild, DeShazo's looking forward to being the first brewer in Lake City since its mining heyday in the 1880s. Back then, there were three breweries in town and more than 3,000 residents. But the mines fizzled and the town's economy morphed into a tourism economy. And many tourists -- while not as thirsty as the old-time gold and silver miners -- crave local beer.
"It's been 130 years," says Doug, noting that one of the old breweries was also named Lake City Brewing Company. "That'll probably be our motto: 'Hinsdale County's Oldest Operating Brewery.' We'll be that the day that we open."
While there are more than 350 breweries in Colorado, Lake City Brewing Company will likely have the largest backyard of any of them. While it's difficult to throw a stone and not hit a brewery in Denver, it's more than 50 miles to the next nearest brewery if you want to take a paved route. But if you're able to take the rugged 4X4 road over the San Juans, there are a few nearer ones.
"As the crow flies, Silverton and Ouray are the closest geographically," says DeShazo, "but it takes longer to get there -- unless you're on a dirt bike."
Eric Peterson is editor of BreweryWeek and CompanyWeek. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.