Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Resolute Brewing Year One: "Exceeded All Expectations"

Five or six years ago, there might have been several obstacles that kept Resolute Brewing from succeeding fully. It planned to open in a strip mall in the suburbs. It was going to focus on German-style beers. It didn't make an IPA for its first nine months.

But this is a different beer world. And so when the Centennial brewery celebrated its one-year anniversary last month with 200 people lined up outside its door to get in for the party, it told a tale greater than just how well one brewery was doing. That event — along with, say, the fact that the brewery made 1,200 barrels in its first year after forecasting in its business plan that it would make 450 — spoke volumes about each brewery finding its own space in the growing Denver beer scene and contributing tastes that may have been unfathomable in the scene's younger days.

"For one year, we've exceeded all expectations," said Clifton Oertli, one of five partners at Resolute. "Honestly, the biggest concern we have right now is being able to keep up with growth."

If you haven't been to the brewery in the Denver Tech Center, you still might have found its
hefeweizen or its doppelbock at one of the 50 taps that pour Resolute from Summit County to Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Or maybe you've stumbled on the greatest surprise the brewery has offered — an American-style light lager that is the house beer for 5280 Burger Bar in downtown Denver and allows you to enjoy its light body and legitimate malt backbone without tasting the rice, corn or other adjunct crap that have come to define the style.

But if you have made it down to the taproom, you'll find the heart of the idea that spawned plans for the brewery — dogs, families, people playing games out back. And WiFi that is accessible to everyone, especially folks who decide that it's easier to finish their work with a pint of American Blonde rather than going back to the office. These are the things the partners said they didn't see at many of the downtown breweries they'd frequented.

The story of Resolute goes back to Columbine High School, where four of the five founders went. When Oertli, an engineer by trade, wanted to launch the brewery, he dipped back into the community that had helped him become who he was. And when the original four partners decided that they needed a full-time brewer, they  found Zac Rissmiller, an Elk Mountain brewer who had gone to Columbine with one of their sisters.

The Columbine connection to the brewery for Rissmiller especially is more than just one of locality. He and partner Matt Davis were students there during the hideous attack in 1999 when 13 students died. Being a part of that has led to a close partnership between the brewery and Phoenix 999, an organization that helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Being there also influenced his decision to pick a career path allowing him to do something he truly wanted to do.

"It's the reason I do what I do for a living, because I'm never going to take life as a passive thing," Rissmiller (pictured at top with Oertli) said. "I have an engineering degree too. I don't need to make money. I need to be happy."

The crowds that now populate Resolute have been there since day one, and the brewery is getting used to them — and feeding off their energy to expand its line of beers. It busted out a session IPA this summer, and it celebrated its first birthday with a Belgian dark strong ale aged on peaches. More experimentation is coming.

Most of all, more beer is coming, and that's a good thing. Resolute is growing a well-deserved reputation as a brewery that won't blow you away with its complexity but will leave you satisfied. The fact that so many people have come to appreciate it is a testament to both the brewery and to Denver-area beer drinkers willing to reach outside of what once was their comfort zone.

"It doesn't matter what kind of accolades you get, it doesn't matter what kind of things are going on," Rissmiller said. "You've just got to make better beer."

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