Fort Collins, Colorado
Founded: 2009 (licensed and opened in 2010)
Co-founder Brad Lincoln believes the crowded Fort Collins market has actually benefited the growing saison-focused beer brand.
Lincoln knows how it feels to be told he is crazy. Not only did he leave a successful career as a CPA and auditor to study brewing science at the Siebel Institute in Chicago in 2009, but he -- along with co-founder and co-owner Gordon Schuck -- then chose to open a brewery focused on a little-known style in a market that some felt was already saturated.
"People told us we had no idea what we were doing," he recalls. "They were surprised that we were focusing on saisons rather than IPAs. And they couldn't understand why we would want to start up in Fort Collins when we'd be competing against New Belgium, Odell, Anheuser-Busch, Fort Collins Brewery, Coopersmith's and, C.B, & Potts." ("Of course, now there are 10 more breweries than that," he laughs.)
The concerns were quickly proven to be unfounded. "Our plan was decently well thought out," says Lincoln. "I love packaged beer. I know it sounds strange, with so many people who like beer better on draft, but I love holding the bottle in my hand and pouring it into a glass. So we designed Funkwerks to be a production brewery from the start."
Because they wanted to stand out on overly crowded shelves, the pair chose saison as their signature style. "We both loved Belgian beers, but Gordon was particularly in love with saisons. He convinced me that it was a beer style that was going to take off."
Schuck was correct. Though Lincoln recalls they never expected to brew more than 1,000 barrels a year, Funkwerks produced 2,000 last year on its 15-barrel premier stainless system and is on track to generate at least 3,000 barrels in 2015. He estimates they go through 30 barrels per month in their kid- and dog-friendly taproom alone.
The production process is still 100 percent hands-on, a situation that's fine for now with the pair who began developing and testing their recipes in Schuck's backyard. "Though I'm a big fan of automation, I just can't afford it," Lincoln laughs. "It still takes about three or four people to run our bottling line."
And the "saturated" market? It's actually turned out to be a boon for Funkwerks. "With all of the breweries coming online in our area, I would have thought our taproom sales would have gone down. But they've actually gone up," says Lincoln. He credits the increasing concentration of breweries with turning Fort Collins into a beer-lover's destination.
"They are drawing more people into the area," he continues. "I think that works for the rest of the state as well. The more breweries Colorado has, the more people who want to come here as tourists. So we're bringing in dollars from other places now rather than just splitting up the same pie."
Favorite beers: Saison is Lincoln's favorite Funkwerks brew. Other Fort Collins area beers he enjoys include Le Terroir and Blue Paddle from New Belgium. He adds, "I really like lager in addition to Belgian stuff, so I love Zwei Brewing's Helles and Pils."
Challenges: "The biggest challenge we face is fermentation space," Lincoln says. "We always need fermenters, they take a while to get, and you have to line up the financing for them. We have two more 30-barrel tanks coming next weekend, and I expect us to continue to grow at our present rate."
Opportunities: "Raspberry Provincial should be available in four packs in August," says Lincoln of the brewery's 2014 GABF Gold Medal winner. "I love sharing 750s. But when I drink beer alone, I typically choose a smaller bottle. I think Raspberry Provincial is really accessible as a product, and offering it in four packs is going to be huge for us."
Needs: While Lincoln would eventually like to get another vessel for the Funkwerks brewhouse, his immediate need is more personal. "What I need is patience more than anything else," he laughs. "I can see where we're going and the steps we need to take to get there. But we have to move at a reasonable pace."