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Aspen seems to have it all: some of the best ski runs in the country, beautiful people, and even more attractive scenery (it is named “Aspen,” after all). So if there was a ski town that needed to have a brewery, this High Country haven did. Enter: Aspen Brewing Company, a small brewery that has poured suds since 2008. We sat down with Chase Engel, the head brewer, this summer to talk low-alcohol beers, neighborhood breweries, and living in Aspen.
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Name: Chase Engel, Aspen Brewing Company
Title: Head Brewer
5280: How did you get started in brewing?
Chase Engel: I started home brewing when I was 21, but I started working in a brewery when I was 22, so professionally for seven years.
5280: That’s young!
CE: There are people who search for something other than being a lawyer. I started working in college at a brewery and then just kept going.
5280: What are the advantages of being a brewer in Aspen?
CE: I love living here. I love living in the mountains. I get to make my own schedule.
5280: What’s a typical day like?
CE: Today, I brewed a batch. That takes nine hours, finishing it up. Most of my day is spent is cleaning—about 75 percent of my day. It is not a glamorous job. But there are a lot of perks. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
5280: You have pallets of cans sitting here. What are you going to do with them?
CE: Yep, got them within the last six weeks. We wanted to wait until we had beer to put in them. First, the blonde, and then, about a month later the IPA. It’s been selling like crazy. The rafters love it. The outdoorsy people love it. You can crush it.
5280: What’s your best seller?
CE: Our IPA. We probably sell twice as many as anything else.
5280: What are you experimenting with now?
CE: I put our Saison in wine barrels. The Saison has been in there for two months. I got the barrels from a friend of a family-friend. They’ll get a sour, funky flavor. I think they’ll be ready in the fall. They’re smelling good right now. But you never know. You need to taste them. I’ll put them in bottles and sell them wherever.
5280: What’s your favorite part of the brewing process?
CE: My favorite part is seeing, at the end of the day, a tank full—and I just made it all—and knowing people are going to drink it. Plus, the industry. So many cool people to hang out with. I feel very lucky to be doing this.
5280: Do you have a favorite ingredient?
CE: Yeast. Wouldn’t be beer without the yeast.
5280: What do you think is the next big thing in brewing?
CE: I think that this is the opposite of what most people would say, but I think that people are going to get sick of 8 percent, 9 percent beers all the time and they’re going to want to drink brew-in-session beers. That’s what we do. The beers that you can have five or six of at a time. They’re my favorite to brew, but brewing session beers [is hard].
I think there’s going to be a trend for people to seek out neighborhood breweries. They’re popping up like crazy. You should be able to walk down the street and get a fresh beer. The trend the last 10 years is for breweries to get huge. We’re not trying to be New Belgium or Sierra Nevada, but we are trying to grow. People should be able to source our local beers, assuming they’re good.
—Image courtesy of Aspen Brewing Company