At Brewmented in Longmont, beer lovers can not only stock up on the supplies they need to brew their own imperial porter or American pale ale at home, they also can sit down and enjoy a cold one.
The Hover Street storefront serves as a homebrew equipment retailer as well as a nanobrewery where cofounder Bill Campbell and others can play mad scientist with experimental new beers, and a 14-tap taproom where customers can give those beers a taste.
We chatted with Campbell, a veteran of the technology field and lifelong homebrewer, to learn more about the roughly year-old business.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
1. How did you make the pivot from the tech world to the brewing industry?
I've basically been brewing forever. I started about 40 years ago — 1977, 1978, somewhere in that time frame.
I was working my way through school in northern California and I happened to try an Anchor Steam, which was one of the very early craft beers. It completely set me off and got me wondering why it was so much better than everything else.
So I started brewing my own beer. It was something that excited me, it was something that I'd share with friends. It's been my hobby ever since.
About three or four years ago, a friend of mine by the name of Vlad Aleksiev and I started talking about brewing and whether it was something we could actually turn into a profession.
First we started looking at possibly building a brewery or buying a brewery. But somewhere in the discussion we shifted to talking about going into the homebrew industry. I've been going to homebrew stores myself for 40 years, so I saw an opportunity there. This was a way of getting into the brewing industry, but coming at it from a different angle.
2. At Brewmented, does the business focus more on homebrewing equipment sale or the in-house brewing operation?
We've really nailed the homebrewing side of things, so right now we do more business on that side. That said, we are getting more and more people coming in who just like hanging out here and trying these small-crafted beers. We want to be the center of the universe for northern Colorado people who just want to have a place to go and chat about beer.
The ratio of our business is starting to shift — not because we're losing business on the homebrew side, but because a lot of people are discovering our taproom. And it's not just our beers that we put on tap for people to try. We have a lot of really neat guest taps. We happen to like beers that other brewers make, so we want to share those with our customers as well.
3. Is the aim not only to run a business, but also to provide a community gathering place for homebrewers?
We love that community part of it. In fact, you don't even have to be a brewer to enjoy hanging out here — you've just got to love beer.
With the store and with the brewery, we're trying to get out and engage with the community. One of the things we're doing is sponsoring programs. That means homebrewers from the area submit beers to be judged in a competition. The winning beer gets to come on tap at our brewery. Homebrewers absolutely love it — they'll come in with their families and take pictures next to the tap. It's a really neat experience.
We're doing a lot of different things to bring people in and bring the community together. We're launching a "Meet the Brewer" night where we're going to be bringing in really significant breweries from all over Colorado. We will put a few of their beers on tap and let the brewer talk about the beer, answer some questions.
Every weekend we do classes for people to learn about brewing beer, making cider, a bunch of different topics. We've got all kinds of cool stuff like that, and all these events are free.
4. Does being in such a beer-crazy region help spark creativity when it comes to brewing experimental beer styles?
Absolutely. This a great area to be located.
So many people are interested in beer and brewing. People aren't afraid to try new things and take risks.
There's a fear expressed by some that we are getting overbuilt in terms of breweries. I'm not entirely sure I buy that. But because we are a brewery and a homebrew store, we can differentiate ourselves a little bit even if there is some oversaturation. There's always going to be room for someone trying to do something neat and also has a strong business plan.
5. What's next for Brewmented?
If this thing really works here — and so far we have reason to be optimistic — there's no reason we couldn't pick up the concept and duplicate it elsewhere. There's a lot of brewing in Colorado, and folks from the southern part of the state may not want to trek all the way up to Longmont.
We're also expanding our online sales presence. That's going to be a focus in terms of growth. But ultimately, we're going to let the market set the tempo for where we go.