Want to make the startup brewery gods laugh, tell ‘em you’re confident about that target opening date.
But patience is a virtue, and an especially rewarding one when there’s beer at the other end.
So without further ado: After 14 months in the making and longer in the buzz, 1876 Ale Works marked its grand opening, at Union Boulevard and Templeton Gap Road, on Saturday. The steampunk-themed brewery had been on track to open in September, but the plot took an unexpected twist in late summer when owner Kevin McCarthy found himself down a business partner and in search of a new brewmaster.
Such a big hiccup so late in the game bumped the timeline but ultimately allowed for the assembly of a “talented and hardworking team of people ... that I’m so proud of,” said McCarthy, a former corporate chef and career Army officer who started envisioning his retirement venture long before he deduced how it would play out.
“As I was looking at retirement, this is something I came away with as a way forward,” said McCarthy, who was born into an Air Force family in Germany and pursued culinary studies in Florida before moving to Colorado Springs and wrapping up his military career at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “I came to the States at 19, but I spent my upbringing, and my time in the military, traveling around, and part of that was drinking beer all over.”
McCarthy’s suds and restaurant sensibilities helped guide the vision for the business, but he won’t be showcasing any of those talents at 1876, which doesn’t have a kitchen and will rely on partnerships with a rotating roster of food trucks.
Brewing is the purview of Nickie Freund, who signed on in August to run the brewhouse with assistant — and husband — Joe.
“He’s the best assistant I could ever ask for. He knows exactly what I’m thinking at all times, and he gets things done,” said Nickie, who grew up in an Air Force family and pursued a career Army path to the Springs, where she met Joe, a Wichita native and civilian contractor working as a pharmacist at Fort Carson.
Brewing is currently a second job, and passion, for both.
“I homebrewed for about 20 years, and decided this is what I wanted to do when I grow up,” said Nickie, who completed the intensive brewing science and engineering program at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont in 2016. “For me, this has been in the works and the planning for quite some time as a retirement job, and then this opportunity came up. I’m so close to retirement from my government job — a year and nine months. Then this will be the only venture.”
The brewery runs on a double-barrel system that can either produce two separate two-barrel batches or a single, four-barrel brew.
“It’s small, so we’re brewing a lot and we can only get so much out of each batch,” Freund said.
For now, at least, there’s no “theme” to the libations at 1876, which ultimately will have eight taps pouring alcoholic offerings, plus two house-made sodas.
“This first year, we want to keep it all experimental, seeing what people are wanting, seeing what the flavor palates are,” Freund said.
At the grand opening, the community fed back loud and clear.
“This has been a long time in the making, but now we’re finally at doors open. Now we’re just like, please let the beer last. We’ve blown at least one keg so far ... and we’re down to the last keg of the hazy IPA,” said Freund on Saturday afternoon, as a standing-room-only crowd quaffed down the grand opening reserves.
By 8 p.m., the brewery had tapped out its kegs and announced that, due to the successful debut, it would be closed until Tuesday.
Patience, my friends. Patience.