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Brewability Lab isn’t just another ale house in an already-crowded Denver metro beer market. No, the three-year-old brewery, housed in the former downtown Englewood Brew on Broadway space since late last month, has a mission that goes beyond getting you buzzed on craft brews.
Along with its counterpart, Pizzability, in Cherry Creek, Brewability Lab is staffed entirely by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The goal is to provide job training and skill development for disabled adults, while supplying the community with delicious pizza and beer.
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The idea is Tiffany Fixter’s, a longtime autism educator who moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Denver to run a special-needs day program.
“It’s pretty disheartening for a teacher to see what choices there are for the kids when they grow up,” Fixter says. “I felt like there was a lot more potential. A lot of the people…they said they weren’t employable. But I saw a lot of skills.”
Looking for a way to ease her grown-up kids into the workforce, she started a brewery, “because it’s a popular thing in Denver.” Brewability originally opened in October 2016 in northeast Denver, but it closed this past spring when its lease wasn’t renewed. “They said we’re not a typical business,” Fixter says of the landlord’s decision.
So, she moved the 25-person staff, who are all paid at the state’s tipped minimum wage, to Pizzability while she searched for an Englewood location for Brewability 2.0.
Then, over the summer, the nearly year-old Cherry Creek pizza restaurant experienced some drama of its own. A local CBS news reporter was working on a story nearby when she saw the empty restaurant and asked Fixter why no one was there. According to reporter Tori Mason’s tweet, Fixter told her people were afraid to go in, saying “that’s where the retards work.”
The social media post got the restaurant a serious bump in customers, but Fixter says it only lasted two weeks before things went back to the way things were. Which weren’t great. “We’ve had a really tough time in Cherry Creek. People aren’t so vocal about it anymore; they just don’t come,” she says.
She’s more optimistic about Brewability, though, and its accessible spot at Broadway and Hampden. Depending on how busy the brewery gets, Fixter says she may be able to employ even more adults with disabilities, and she may bring the pizza operation over there, too. “It’s hard to do this because it does cost more—we need more support staff. But it’s worth it because it’s a better business because of what we do,” she says.