By Angela Rose | Nov 29, 2015
[Editor's note; FATE Brewing Company ceased operations in 2019.]
Sometimes, success is fated. Or at least that appears to be true for Boulder's FATE Brewing Company. The popular brewpub -- a decade-long goal of owner Mike Lawinski and head brewer Jeff Griffith -- has sustained rapid growth since its inception nearly three years ago.
"When we opened our brewpub doors for the first time, it was the realization of a dream," Lawinski says. "We've been surprised by how fast we've been able to grow and how well we've been received, but we've always known we wouldn't stop at just this. It wasn't the end of what we could do."
And stopping they are not. The company recently announced it will be expanding into Avery Brewing Company's old space at 5763 Arapaho Ave., its second expansion within a single year. "In January 2015, we expanded our brewery from the original build out to maximize our space, doubling our fermentation ability," explains Lawinski.
This enabled the team to increase production on their 10-barrel decoction and three-barrel pilot system from the previous year's 1,500 barrels to about 2,500, but they lost the space needed to barrel age their product. "One of Jeff's strengths is what he can do with barrels," Lawinski says. "We haven't done more than a few barrels in 2015 and have missed it tremendously."
The acquisition of the new space includes the addition of a 35-barrel system and an abundance of room for fermentation and barrel aging. "In 2016, we're going to brew somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 barrels," says Lawinski. For a brewery that has produced more than 100 different styles of beers over the years -- including the Great American Beer Festival gold medal-winning Laimas Kölsch Style Ale -- more space will mean even more innovation. "I guarantee there are going to be some brand new styles coming your way," Lawinski says. "They will include a lot more sours and a gueze program as well. We're really excited about our new toys and abilities."
Lawinski and his team need to install fermentation tanks at their new location as well as work out some licensing before they can begin production. However, "You'll probably see beer from us out of the new space in the spring of 2016."
Favorite beers: "Avery's Maharaja is one of my all-time favorites," Lawinski says. "And anything coming out of a whisky barrel is also going to hit towards the top of my list. New Belgium's La Folie was one of the first sour beers I enjoyed and they still make that one extremely well. I also enjoy Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island and Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale. It was the actually the first craft beer I fell in love with. But I consistently find myself coming back from festivals and drinking Jeff's beer."
Challenges: Obtaining raw materials tops Lawinski's list of challenges. "When a specific hop or malt varietal becomes popular it can make recipe development challenging, especially when you're in the process of doubling or tripling your production," he explains. Additionally, "Anytime you open a new facility you need a new staff of dedicated people. On top of that, new projects are capital intensive. There's funding and financing that must be put in place."
Opportunities: "The new facility is going to make it possible for us to get more of our product into liquor stores in Colorado," Lawinski says. "We're going to be able to put different product into packages as well. We plan to have six cans out by mid-2016 and will ultimately be able to share our beer with other states. That's probably the biggest growth opportunity on our radar, though we won't introduce new markets right way."
But even more than the expansion of their distribution range, Lawinski sees opportunity in FATE Brewing Company's new, exclusive access program aptly dubbed FATED. For $375 a year, members of FATED will receive over $500 worth of product, including four 750mL bottles of the brewery's most exclusive specialty release, and discounts on beer and gear that brewpub and new tap room.
"FATED is probably what I'm most excited about," says Lawinski. "We like to try new brews in limited quantities, and this program will give us an avenue to get exclusive, special beers to our followers outside of our brewpub and area liquor stores and restaurants. And we couldn't do it without the new facility."
Needs: "I need more hours in the week," Lawinski laughs. "But really, we're doing all of this expansion while leaning on the current brewpub. It's doing really well and is high volume, but we need to restructure a bit to create the new space as its own entity with its own funds. That's probably the biggest need I have to finalize."