Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Born in Hollywood, California, the self-described "black sheep" in a family of attorneys, Simmons lived in Los Angeles, New York, and London while working as a corporate marketer before moving to Pagosa Springs in 1996. "I never thought I would stay here this long," he says. "I thought it was a cool ski town and I'd hang out and do some snowboarding before moving on. But it turned out to be a place with the sense of community I'd always been looking for."
He opened Pagosa Brewing 10 years later after discovering homebrewing, winning scholarships to professional brewing schools in the U.S. and Germany, working at Durango Brewing for a short time, running a homebrew shop, and landing a gig as a marketing consultant for White Labs.
"We've been growing since we opened," Simmons says. "And every year, we've kind of reinvented ourselves with something new." In 2016, that included a big expansion in the form of a full-service restaurant. "Over the years, we saw that the more, better food we provided, the more of our beer we sold. We started out with a lady who made burritos, then a guy who did some barbeque outside. We moved on to bringing in menus from other places, but we just didn't have enough restaurants in our community to pull that off. So, we ran our own food wagon out front for six years before adding a full-on restaurant with a real kitchen and real plates in February."
With the addition of the "and Grill" to its moniker, Pagosa Brewing now serves between 350 to 600 meals a day, depending on the season. From pub standards including spinach and artichoke dip and chicken wings to artisan pizzas, flatbreads, pot pies, and customizable mac and cheese, Simmons' foodie focus is on comfort staples. "People love comfort food and these are great dishes to pair with beer because they have so many caramelized kinds of flavors," he explains.
Beer sales have grown right along with Pagosa Brewing's menu offerings. "We offer about 18 house-brewed beers on tap at all times along with a guest cider and mead," he says. He and his team are currently brewing three to four times a week and will produce 800 barrels of award-winning beer this year (up from 750 in 2015) on their original six-barrel system from England.
"I beat my projections for 2016 by 100 percent overall," he adds. "Merchandise is up 1700 percent. Wine is up 100 percent. Liquor is up almost 200 percent, and beer is up 25 percent. We're able to grow in all different directions now."
Favorite beers: Simmons loves a good pilsner. "Our unfiltered Classic Pils took a gold medal at this year's Colorado State Fair," he says. "It's an American style that represents what beer used to be to this country before mass production and was my go-to beer all summer. Beyond that, I love barelywines, old ales, Baltic porters and Russian imperial stouts. Those are all great categories, and I appreciate those kinds of beers because they tend to be really unique."
Needs: In short, additional experienced team members. "We've trained most of our crew from the ground up," says Simmons. "People don't really want to uproot themselves from Denver or other places where affordable housing and daycare are easily found. We've been able to bring in a couple of staffers from out of town by selling them on the quality of life in Pagosa, but we need to get more people here."