By Angela Rose | Mar 30, 2016
As the old saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. In Myers' case, he opened that door himself. A former assistant telecom manager at the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, he saw the metaphorical writing on the wall after his employer's joint operating agreement with the Denver Post.
"It was pretty obvious that this town wasn't going to support two papers," he recalls. "So I started talking with some of the brewers in the area, including Great Divide, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues, about what might be possible."
Most suggested the avid homebrewer would need an unattainable number, say, $2 million or more, to start his own venture. Then he met Dry Dock Brewing's Kevin DeLange. "I saw the tasting room brewery he had opened and it seemed like something that might be pretty doable," he says. Myers and business partner John Fletcher, another former Rocky employee, launched Strange Craft Beer a short time later. "We cashed in our 401ks and got open for only $150,000," he states proudly.
For the first year, all the beer served out of the cozy taproom was produced on Myer's 30-gallon homebrew system. "I had four one-barrel fermenters and two three-barrel fermenters," he says. "Every Monday, we'd brew three batches of the same beer and put it in one of the three-barrel fermenters. Then every Tuesday, we'd brew two separate recipes. Those five brews took us about 27 hours, and at the end of the week, we had 150 gallons of beer."
It quickly became evident that their setup was severely undersized for product demand. "We were doing everything we could to keep eight beers up," he says. They upgraded to a 10-barrel system in August 2011 but kept their original equipment as well. "That allowed us to continue experimentation and pilot brewing while we used the 10-barrel system to ensure we didn't run out."
Myers says the brewery now produces 45 to 65 different recipes in addition to the eight-beer core lineup that includes the bestselling Breakfast Grapefruit IPA, gold medal-winning Cherry Kriek, and bronze-medal earning Dr. Strangelove Barleywine.
Strange Craft Beer fans have become accustomed to this abundance of options, thanks in part to the brewery's One Barrel Wednesdays. "We tap a new experimental beer every Wednesday and gather feedback from our customers," Myers says. The most successful often move on to become regular features on the taproom's beer board.
Others are destined for the drain. "Not all of our inspirations work," Myers laughs. "The radish saison was a terrific failure, though we did find out what week-old mop water tastes like. We didn't serve that one. You have to be willing to dump it and just learn your lesson."
He expects to max out the brewery's production capacity this year. "We did 868 barrels in 2015, and at 1,000, we'll be out of room," Myers explains. "We'd have to shorten the length of the recipes in the fermenters and rush some things to make more. We don't want to do that just for the sake of increasing production."
However, he is beginning to plan for the future. "We have to figure out what the next step in the story of Strange is. Will we get a new facility? Will we stay small? We just don't know yet."
Favorite beers: "It depends on the style I'm in the mood for," says Myers. "If I want a good English cask-conditioned beer, I will run up to Hogshead Brewery for a Lake Lightning or a Chin Wag ESB. I do love Jean-Claude Van Blond from Wit's End Brewing Company. But if I don't see anything interesting on the beer board that I want to try and Ska Brewing's Modus Hoperandi is available, that's what I'll get. You definitely can't go wrong with that IPA."
Challenges: "Other than our small size, our challenge is uncertainty in the industry itself," Myers confides. He's particularly concerned about potential changes to Colorado's liquor laws that -- if included on this year's election ballot and supported by voters -- could result in the sale of full-strength beer in convenience stores and supermarkets.
"Planning an expansion is kind of scary when you don't know what the business environment is going to be in a year," he says. "Additionally, you have the big boys buying into craft and changing how beer distribution is going to be handled."
Opportunities: "The opportunities to get Strange out to the public are huge," Myers says. "Colorado is an enormous craft beer market, and we need to figure out how best to serve it. We've really worked on getting our name out there, but we still get people asking if we're new and where we're located. We tend to be one of Denver's best-kept secrets."
The brewery's product is currently available in the taproom and in bombers in liquor stores across the Front Range. "We have a few accounts in Summit County, but we're self-distributed so it depends on how economically feasible it is to drive a bunch of orders to any particular area," he says.
Needs: "Space," says Myers. "We're shoehorned into this facility. Our own packaging equipment would be wonderful, but we just don't have the space right now."