LOUISVILLE -- Look for a slightly amber glow descending over east Boulder County this weekend as two new microbreweries -- one in Louisville and one in Lafayette -- tap their kegs and begin the flow of hand-crafted goodness to a part of the county where few options exist for sampling beer brewed on site.
Twelve Degree Brewing officially opened its doors at 1 p.m. Saturday in Louisville, though the Belgian-inspired brewpub has been pouring suds for the last couple of weeks on an informal basis at 820 Main St. An hour later and a few miles to the east, Front Range Brewing Company launched its seven-barrel brewhouse as part of a soft opening. The brewery's grand opening is set for July 13.
"Lafayette is on the beer map," Front Range owner Will Boggs said Friday, as he put the finishing touches on his spacious taproom in Lafayette Marketplace, 400 West S. Boulder Road.
Jon Howland, Twelve Degree's founder and owner, said he's ready to join an east Boulder County scene that up to now has been the sole province of Gravity Brewing Co., which opened in Louisville's American Legion building on Pine Street less than a year ago.
"It's fun having more than one -- we've got our own styles," Howland said Friday, as he took a break from brewing his latest batch of beer. "I think a town like Louisville can support a few neighborhood breweries."
How many is too many?
But whether the camaraderie of friendly competition is still the prevailing mood by autumn, when as many as eight breweries could be operating across Louisville, Lafayette and Erie, remains to be seen.
Louisville expects to see the opening of another brewery, Crystal Springs Brewing Company, later this summer. And Lafayette will get two more -- Odd13 Brewing on 301 E. Simpson St. and The Post Brewing Co. at 105 W. Emma St. Meanwhile expect a pair in Erie's historic downtown by summer's end, Echo Brewing Company and Industrial Revolution Brewing Co.
All would join 30 microbreweries already operating in Boulder County, with another two in Broomfield.
John Frazee, who owns Gravity Brewing in Louisville, said the demand is definitely there for hand-crafted beer but he wonders if the trend line is headed up a little too quickly.
"You start to wonder how many breweries can exist in these small towns," he said. "Two or three breweries in Louisville is manageable, but we wouldn't want to see any more than that."
Frazee said getting the word out about Gravity without a giant marketing budget has been difficult, and the brewery's tucked-away location behind a strip mall poses a challenge when it comes to drawing in foot or drive-by traffic. But even so, Gravity has managed to grow a loyal customer base, doubled its fermenting capacity and has seen its wholesale volume "spike" over the last few months.
Tom Horst, who owns Crystal Springs Brewing Co., said he is not worried his out-of-the-way location in Louisville's Colorado Technology Center will put him at a disadvantage. He has built a following for the beers he has been brewing out of his Sunshine Canyon home for the past three years -- Crystal Springs produced 113 barrels in 2012 -- and Horst wants to provide his customers a place to gather while they savor his product.
"I don't see it as competition," he said. "What we're really competing with are the big boys -- the ones who have 90 percent of the market."
Twelve Degree's Howland describes a collaborative spirit between local brewers, illustrated by his recent need to stock up on hard-to-find Japanese Sorachi Ace hops. He said New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins sold him some and then Twisted Pine Brewing Co. in Boulder stored them for him until he could get his refrigeration installed at his brewery.
"We're all relatively small and we're all in the realm of neighborhood breweries," he said. "Hopefully, we'll make it work."
'Ship in a bottle'
Making it work so far has been no cakewalk for Howland. He first proposed opening a brewery in Louisville in 2011 but wasn't able to make the space he was looking at fit his plans. A year later, when Moroccan restaurant Imperial Fez closed at 820 Main St., Howland gave it another shot.
Moving heavy brewing equipment into a century old building with narrow doorways and no loading dock, however, has been a challenge. The limited space on the ground floor has forced him to be innovative with his basement, where he keeps Twelve Degree's refrigerators and serving tanks.
"Putting a modern brewery in a 120-year-old house was like putting a ship in a bottle," Howland said. "It's a little bit of a Rube Goldberg brewery going on here."
But the hard work has paid off, as Howland gets ready to open an establishment boasting a bar made of wood salvaged from the floor of an old box car. A front side garage door provides for a seamless environment between those drinking inside and those imbibing out on the streetside patio.
Twelve Degree will serve flatbread pizza and Belgian-style frites to go along with the brewery's saisons, pale ales, trippels and quadrupels.
"I'm really happy it worked," Howland said.
Bold brews, food partnerships
Boggs, of Front Range Brewing Co., said opening in the newly refurbished Lafayette Marketplace couldn't have come at a better time. With a new owner, a wave of new tenants and a bustling farmer's market outside his door every Sunday, Boggs said he is hopeful for the future.
"We are in a unique position with where we are," he said. "We've got the farmer's market behind us and an aggressive owner who's revitalizing the area."
He hopes brewer Chris Dutton, who is bold and eclectic with the beer he makes, captures local beer drinkers' imaginations. Dutton is currently aging a batch of saison in wooden tequila barrels and plans to brew a Belgian quad, blended with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee from the Unseen Bean Coffee Co. across the hall, in 30-year old wooden Caribbean run barrels.
The collaboration with the Unseen Bean is not the only partnership Front Range plans to make with its fellow tenants inside the shopping center. Bistro 503, which recently moved from Public Road to a space across the hall from the brewery, will make appetizers for Front Range customers. Food orders placed inside the brewery will print out in Bistro 503's kitchen, Boggs said.
A similar arrangement has been worked out with Thai Kitchen III, which is a few feet further down the hall. Boggs said the brewery is also exploring a relationship with the Gourmet Cheese Pantry Shoppe, which just opened in Lafayette Marketplace this week.
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @abuvthefold