When you enter Spangalang Brewery, you find yourself at the intersection of past and present. Located in the heart of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, it’s as much a throwback as it is a change-up. Taylor Rees, Austin Wiley and Darren Boyd, the brewery’s three owners, know their business is built on the storied past of the neighborhood, well-executed versions of history’s most revered beer styles and their own impressive past brewing experience. What sets them apart, however, is where they’re headed.
“We were excited about opening a ‘neighborhood brewery’,” said Austin Wiley, “where we could significantly shorten the distance between brewer and drinker.” It is this seemingly simple philosophy that seems so striking in a time of explosive growth and expansion for other breweries.
Spangalang’s owners confirm they have no plans to package in cans or bottles, nor do they plan to pursue outside sales, aside from a few choice draft accounts. “We intend to focus our efforts on the tap room, with a couple draft accounts here and there,” said Darren Boyd.
Luckily for brewery visitors, there’s no need for “Meet The Brewer” nights, as the Spangalang brewers are also the ones pouring beer, balancing the books, cleaning up and doing a bit of everything else, so it’s not hard to run into them.
Combined, Rees, Wiley and Boyd have decades of experience brewing for some of the best breweries in Colorado like Great Divide Brewing Co. and Denver Beer Co. Taylor spent a large portion of his career as Great Divide’s head brewer after starting on the bottling line. Austin spent many years as Great Divide’s lead brewer with Taylor before moving on to become head brewer at Denver Beer Co. Darren began on the bottling line at Great Divide and quickly rose to purchasing manager while concurrently training in the cellar, and eventually shifted to full-time brewer and lead brewer of their barrel-aging program.
This multi-dimensional experience in the industry allows them to not only focus on brewing the best beer they can, but also running the best business they can. It also means that they share duties equally, working within an ownership structure they jokingly refer to as the “tri-force of awesomeness.”
Their tap room, staffed by a few former Great Divide-ers, musicians, artists and brewery owners’ family members, has a welcoming, inviting vibe. Local art hangs on the walls, alongside old jazz records—a tribute to the vibrant cultural and historical identity of Five Points. Many of the most famous American jazz musicians played in bars and music halls along Welton Street, and Five Points is nationally renowned as a home for the then newly-flourishing music genre. All three owners agree that they were baffled by the fact that no one had opened a brewery here yet.
The name, Spangalang, is a reference to a classic jazz cymbal pattern, both a nod to the neighborhood history, as well as a shrewd step in avoiding the type of recent trademark and name disputes that have plagued breweries large and small in an otherwise collegial industry. “There aren’t any other businesses in the U.S. that use the name ‘Spangalang’—let alone breweries—so, we felt we were safe,” said Rees.
A peek at their beer portfolio and one is quick to note that their offerings are a bit like jazz itself, all sorts of influences and seemingly endless possibilities. “We chose not to focus on one particular style of beer or region of origin, but rather to approach brewing from a standpoint of quality and attention to detail,” Rees offered. “We like diversity in the beer we drink, so we want diversity in the beer we brew and serve.”
This holistic approach has yielded a wide variety of styles poured in their tap room, all from their 10-barrel brewhouse. Of these many styles, three beers have emerged as somewhat flagships, based on popularity:
D-Train IPA | 6.5% ABV, 50 IBUs Huge hop aroma with a moderate bitterness level. Enormous aromas of tangerine and passion fruit prevail with a dry, citrus finish.
Hop Colossus | 8% ABV, 70 IBUs Big citrus character. Grapefruit nose leads into peach and tropical fruit characters.
Night Walker | 9.75% ABV, 47 IBUs This rich, malty stout may remind you of eating dark chocolate cake, and you can also pick up subtle tones of berry in the aroma.
Though two of their most popular styles have been IPAs, Wiley assures tap room visitors that they plan to avoid being pigeonholed as brewers. “While we’ve already brewed our fair share of the currently popular IPAs and saisons,” he says, we’ve also brewed about four other Belgian beers, a couple of imperial stouts, a couple lagers and a couple beers fermented with Brettanomyces. All that and we have only been open four months.”
When I ask the guys what they have planned for Spangalang in the next year, they are excited. Beers from their currently in-progress barrel-aging program should be pouring in the tap room within the next six to 12 months, the neighborhood continues to grow, they hope to offer more food-centric events with their in-house snack space ZiViX Kitchen, and, perhaps most importantly, they look forward to brewing more beer.
“Our wish list of beers we’d like to see in the tap room is pretty long,” Boyd adds, “so you can expect us to continue to brew exciting, delicious, high-quality beers.”
While in Denver, visit Spangalang Brewery at 2736 Welton Street. Their hours are noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
Hanna Laney is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. She began her career working in some of America’s best-loved craft breweries and now works for her family business, Laney Family Farms. She likes Cascade hops, medium-rare steak and low-brow television.