There are few times of the year more soul-satisfying than the break of winter in the Rocky Mountains of the west. Life in Polson has been warm and peaceful. I've been spending this last week enjoying the vices of western Colorado, visiting with family and getting a few turns in on the mountain. I also got a chance to visit with the fine folks at the Aspen Brewing Company located (wait for it!) in Aspen. They have a 7bbl system with a couple of fermenters; a modest but attractive tasting room and plans to pour several different types of beers. They are located in a "working-man's" part of Aspen.
I know, that seems like an oxy-moron. But, beneath the glitz and fantasy-land persona, the gears of Aspen (and similar resort towns: Whitefish) are lubed and turned by people who do the manual labor jobs, the trash-hauling, the food-serving, the beer-making. Without this work force, these high-priced destinations would be nothing more than the ultra-rich standing in a field, throwing their money at each other. Okay, enough of the soapbox. The ultra-rich, and rich, and moderately well-off also contribute quite a bit to these areas. They provide the funds that provide the grease! Very important.
But I digress. The Aspen Brewing Company faces a challenge. Due to where they are located, the powers that be in the Town of Aspen have decided that the Aspen Brewing Company will be allowed to serve their patrons one pint of their beer in their tasting room, a restriction that any Montana brewery can understand. A specially-zoned area was created by the Community Development Department in Aspen to provide businesses with lower rents to facilitate more small, local enterprises. In the creation of this area, bars and restaurants were prohibited. Even though microbreweries in Colorado are not restricted at the federal or state levels on how much product they can serve in their tasting room, the Aspen powers have decided that a tasting room looks too much like a bar and have therefore placed the "one-pint restriction" on them as well as prohibiting the display of sporting events on their televisions!
Now, the principals of the Aspen Brewing Company are not taking this lying down. They will be attempting to change this ruling on the 24th of this month. They are asking for as much positive public comment to the Aspen City Council as they can get.
If there is a villain in this, it seems to be the Community Development Department. This department's aim, when they are placing the restrictions on the brewery, is to preserve the character of Aspen. Now, this gets a sarcastic-laugh out of me. I grew up in this valley. I attended first-grade through high school down-valley in Basalt. Most of my early jobs were in Aspen or Snowmass. The "character of Aspen", the true character of Aspen was bull-dozed, rebuilt, painted, bull-dozed again, rebulit again, and again and again. The "CHARACTER OF ASPEN" is "remodel-rebuild-inflated pricing". Any old-time Aspen charm is very difficult to find in town. Aspen is less a town and more of a corporation.
I wish Duncan, Brad, Rory, and Terry the best of luck with their venture. They have a great idea, pretty good location (zoning not-withstanding), and seem to have a lot of the true old character of aspen, the character that keeps this town running.
Your humble brewer
(Photo courtsy of PlumTV: http://aspen.plumtv.com/stories/new_brew_town)