Black Bottle Brewery

By John W. Mitchell

“I used to hate Sundays,” said Sean Nook, owner and head brewer at Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. “I knew the next morning I had to go to a job I didn’t like. But now Sunday is like Friday or Saturday for me, because I love what I do. Until I started brewing full-time, I didn’t know that feeling existed.”

He marvels at those who would worry that they wouldn’t want to make a job out of their hobby because that would take the fun out of it.

“That’s just crazy,” said Nook. “I would never give that advice,” he grins when he thinks about it. “I was an auto mechanic for 13 years—and I was good at it and was paid well. But nobody is happy to see you when you are an auto mechanic because they know you have bad news that’s going to cost them a lot of money.”

Nook admits growing up managing his Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) that he often gave his parents a hard time. But his life experiences—which included skateboarding, snowboarding and punk rock—helped define both him and his craft.

In 2012, after homebrewing for eight years and formulating hundreds of recipes, Nook felt his beer was good enough to “convince people with money” to back him in opening Black Bottle Brewery. The result is lineup of 40 taps, 15 pouring world-class Black Bottle beer.

Nook, by his own description, has a bold, in your-face personality. When he designed Black Bottle Brewery—which also serves a tasty range of food—he didn’t want another brewpub that felt like a Colorado mountain lodge. Black Bottle has the feel of a nightclub crossed with an art gallery. It’s no surprise that Nook is not shy about experimenting.

“Look, not everyone is going to like every beer,” said Nook, “but people who like craft beer will find something they enjoy.”

His top sellers—the “bill payers”—include, Ginger, a red; Hipster, an IPA; and End of Days, a pale Ale. But Nook also stakes ground across a wide range of clever brews. These include Kentucky Waterfall, a Belgian blonde; There Goes the Neighborhood, a rye saison; Floozy, an American wheat and several others. Black Bottle carries another 25 guest taps, a wide range of bottled beers and a fully stocked bar, including wine.

”I drink everyone’s beer, just look in my refrigerator,” said Nook. “Craft brewers have a great tradition of helping each other out. I like to taste what other breweries are making.”

“Being a brewer is not fun in the way you think,” said Nook. “It’s about 90 percent cleaning the equipment and scheduling the beer production. That’s the hard part that no one thinks about. But the fun part is the 10 percent spent figuring out new recipes and sitting around with friends naming the beers.”

These sessions conjure up beers like Bugger Off, an English-style IPA and Social Insecurity, a Belgian session ale.

Nook also credits his wife and his staff with his success, and calls them his anchors. This includes General Manager Steve Marrick, his former supervisor in the automotive trade.

“People with ADD have a really creative thought process,” said Nook. “It helps us to have people working with us who are detail oriented.”

John W. Mitchell has served from sailor to CEO, with stints as a reporter and writer. He is a published writer and award-winning photographer. John is the owner of SnowPack Public Relations in Cedaredge, Colo., and lives with his wife, who—on most days—loves him more than her horse. John is writing his first novel, and if he manages his day right, he can be found in the late afternoon sipping a microbrew and reading a good book.

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