As breweries begin to pop up on every corner like food trucks and dispensaries in our dear city, talk of bursting the craft beer bubble is beginning to surface once again. But rather than getting all hot and bothered about having too many places where we could plop our fannies for afternoon suds, why not instead celebrate breweries that have fought tooth and nail to establish themselves within an industry that is constantly growing.
Scott Witsoe of Wit’s End Brewing Company – which is celebrating its second anniversary on Saturday, September 21 – has been brewing one barrel at a time since opening to fill demand after winning the palates and hearts of beer drinkers across the city. Not to mention, this jolly “control freak” has been brewing all his beer solo up until May, when he finally promoted the beer-slinging Pat McNerney to “Padawan Brewer,” a.k.a. Assistant Brewer, and hired on volunteer Matt Boehm (he also happened to be one of Wit’s End’s first-ever customers) to help run the taproom.
“Being able to talk to my crew and speak in terms of ‘us’ and ‘we’ is perhaps one of the most gratifying and humbling experiences I have had since opening,” says Witsoe. “I really look forward to the future and the changes ahead.”
On Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., Witsoe and his team will ring in year two with 13 different beers, the most they’ve ever had on tap, plus a couple “fake firkins” (corny kegs of a regular Wit’s End beer that’s been amped up a bit) like the Jean-Claude Van Blond aged with raspberries and cacao nibs or the Ambition Stout aged with charred oak barrel chips from Breckenridge Distillery.
And what would a birthday be without gifts? Each guest will receive a raffle ticket upon entry for a chance to win a pair of GABF tickets for Saturday evening, as well as some Wit’s End shwag and 40s filled with special beers normally never sold to-go.
We chatted with owner and head brewer Scott Witsoe about lessons learned during year one, plans for year two, and details about Saturday’s shindig.
How does it feel to reach your second anniversary?
Amazing beyond words… I have such an incredible base of regular customers and a great flow of new ones coming in, it really is indescribable. When I first opened, I had no idea what to expect, I just knew I needed to take the step off that cliff.
Can you reflect back on year one? What were the biggest lessons you learned?
Discovering that the one-man show was absolutely not sustainable. I was so particular with what I wanted to do, and a bit of a control freak (still am), I thought it would be impossible to let people in beyond having some friends volunteer to pour beer. Fortunately, I’ve learned if you surround yourself by the right people who believe in what you do, it evolves into something greater than one person – it is a collective goal and dream.
What’s in the works for year two? Any expansion plans?
I am happy to say we are just about to close on a loan for the business. This will result in expanding into a 7 bbl system! After a couple holy shits, we will be off and running in a WAY bigger fashion for our third year. The initial idea is to be open more hours, do some commercial tap distribution, and maybe even look at bottling/canning at some point.
What beers will you be pouring on Saturday?
Jean-Claud Van Blond
The Mad King
The Fresh Prince (fresh hop)
Green Goliath (an imperial version of Green Man)