Without a lick of advertising, Great Storm Brewing owners still spent their first week pouring a healthy share of pints for revelers who found their way to the little storefront tucked into the corner of an old strip mall on North Nevada Avenue and Mount View Lane.
Lynn and Jeff Jacobs have been working toward opening their own brewery and tap room for several years and finally did on March 15.
Lynn said she was really surprised by the number of people who came into the shop at 204 Mount View Lane before the store officially announced its opening.
Jeff was not so surprised.
“There’s a huge beer geek community out there,” he said. “They have blogs and reviews and clubs and there are just a lot of enthusiasts.”
One such enthusiast, Steve Shelton, staked his claim on a barstool the first chance he had. He read on a friend’s blog that the brewery was open the night of March 15 and hurried over. He’d been eagerly awaiting the brewery’s grand opening, scheduled for March 24, because he lives just a 15-minute walk from it. It was closing up by the time he got there that Thursday night. But he made his way back in the early afternoon the next day.
There’s been a lot of buzz about this brewery opening in the beer enthusiast circles, he said. And he’s been especially excited about it since it could be his new neighborhood hangout.
“I can walk here faster than I can drive to any of the other breweries,” he said.
Shelton is exactly the kind of patron the Jacobs were hoping to attract to their tap room.
“We want it to be a neighborhood bar,” Jeff said.
Jeff is an engineer at Northrop Grumman by day and a brewer by night. He got into home brewing with his brother-in-law several years ago and the hobby slowly advanced. He started to accumulate more and more supplies and equipment.
“Somewhere along the way, when we realized we already had a little home brewery in the garage, we decided it wasn’t that big of a stretch to open a shop,” Jeff said.
But they wouldn’t just dive in. They started doing some research. And Jeff offered to buy Old West Home Brew Supply from owner Gary Lee. He didn’t want to sell. But that is how Jeff ended up moonlighting as a homebrew associate at a second job for five years.
“I learned a lot about beer and a lot about owning a small business,” Jeff said.
Last summer, they decided it was time to do it.
They looked for a location. The options are limited, because it has to be zoned for industrial use as a brewery is considered a beer factory. That narrowed the search dramatically.
“We couldn’t go into any of the newer shopping centers,” Lynn said.
But they wanted a place that was still welcoming to people and didn’t feel like a sterile warehouse. That’s when they found the shop on North Nevada and Mount View.
They’re pretty confident about the location. It’s just about a quarter of a mile south of the intersection with Austin Bluffs Parkway, where the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is perched on a hill and the new University Village on the west side of Nevada is finding success.
There’s a chance college students will walk to the location. Shelton thinks they probably will as many already park across from his house and walk to campus. It’s also in a section of Nevada that seems to be slowly making improvements.
There were six vacant storefronts in the strip mall when the Jacobs signed their lease in August, Jeff said. Nearly all of them are full now and they’re filled with some lighter uses, including a cooking shop, rather than the grungy and more industrial businesses that used to occupy the spaces.
Lynn said they’re hoping that the brewery’s presence might also help the section of street take a turn toward more prosperous times.
They decorated the tap room themselves with an industrial theme. They put corrugated tin on the walls and blue lights under a glass counter for the bar.
“I felt like it was a good fit,” Lynn said. “I’ve been in breweries where they tried to make an Irish Pub out of a warehouse and it didn’t quite work.”
The couple did all the work themselves, except what had to be permitted.
The brewery serves pretzels, but no other food. The Jacobs have, however, partnered with neighbor Dominoes and will offer up free pizza with a beer purchase and $1 off pints between 6 and 8 p.m. March 24.
They have eight beers on tap. Jeff has made them all before, except the Lightning Wit. They made extra and have kegs stored for the grand opening, but balancing supply and demand will be one of the couple’s biggest challenges. Jeff said one of his greatest concerns is that they will run out of beer.
They don’t expect the brewery to get really big, really fast. But Jeff does envision one day building another brewery location, where he would be able to increase the volume of beer he brews.
But he wants the growth to pay for itself. The Jacobs have not borrowed any money to start the business and don’t want to borrow any down the road.
“The idea is for this to be something we can retire into,” he said.
“And we have every indication that this is a growing industry,” Lynn added.