Just down the road from the only stoplight in mountainous Ouray County, Colorado, and right around the corner from the Ridgeway Town Square where the opening scene to True Grit was filmed, you’ll find the Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery. And just like the big movie that was filmed in a small town, you’ll find the magic of a big-tasting brewery and restaurant in a really small space.
It’s no surprise that founder and owner Tom Hennessy makes brewing beer and serving artisan pizza in a 1,200 square-foot historic building look easy, he has been brewing since before craft beer became a movement. His FrankenBrew instructional video has inspired countless brewers to go into business since it was filmed almost 20 years ago. He also offers a total immersion, three-day course for beer crafters who want to start their own small batch brewing operation on a budget. The course is sold out for the rest of 2013.
You will not find a television above the bar at Colorado Boy Brewery. If you want to be entertained, you can lean in any direction to talk to another patron sitting in one of the 23 seats. Or you can admire several beer competition medals that hang on red, white and blue ribbons from one of the seven-barrel system’s tanks. “That’s a nonchalant way to show off what is a very difficult commodity to earn,” said Hennessy wryly. “It also saves on framing costs.”
Hennessy brews straight up outstanding basics—from blonde to Irish to pale (featuring local floral hops) to IPA, with a few special releases depending upon the season. His beer does justice to his brewing philosophy, honed over many years of running and owning bigger places, including a packaging brewery.
“I finally figured out that what I wanted to do was sell less, better beer at a little higher price,” Hennessy said. “Seven barrels is as big as I want to be. And in a town of 800 people, we are supported well by mostly locals.”
Of course a beer man who calls some of the best-known names in the Colorado and national craft beer scene friends and colleagues, he’s always thinking. These days he has an English-style cask ale on his mind. His English pub ale is handcrafted in small bung kegs with no artificial ingredients or carbonation—as he demonstrates in this video about making cask ale.
Two customers, who could not help but overhear the conversation, leaned over simultaneously to praise the brew. “I come here for this beer,” said one of the men holding up the amber-filled glass in tribute. When Hennessy told both customers that they could now drink the specialty brew at his new tasting room location 25 miles to the east in their hometown of Montrose they were very happy drinkers.
The only thing Hennessy does differently is chill the cask to 38°F, instead of the more tepid 52-56°F mandated by the English. “So, I’m thinking of a whole new craft beer category—American Cask Ale,” Hennessy shares with a glint in his eye that has no doubt been flickering for many years.