Over twenty years of craft brewing experience sit around a table at a brewery that’s been open for three months. The three recently and temporarily unemployed brewers touch their glasses together and tell the story of Call To Arms Brewing Company, a brewery that doesn’t yet have a home, but already has a buzz.
Chris Bell, Jesse Brookstein, and Jon Cross left their jobs at Avery Brewing Company a few weeks ago. Combined, they’d spent over 13 years at the Boulder-based brewery. Bell’s tenure ended as Assistant Brewhouse Manager; Brookstein finished as Packaging Manager; and Cross left as Cellar Manager. Together, they plan to use the quality and consistency they learned in their years at Avery to recreate a similar philosophy with a small craft brewery in Denver.
Call To Arms won’t brew to a thematic style, at least not in the traditional sense. There won’t be one yeast strain, a common flavor profile, or even a similar country of origin. They will brew “what we like to brew, what people want, and what we’re gonna have a good time making,” says Bell. Almost all of their beers will flow from the tap room, with a small selection of bottles for sale in the tap room as well. Any beers that are sold outside of the brewery will be draft only, and focused on extremely local accounts. They plan to brew what the community wants. If a nearby restaurant wants to tap a low ABV sour with some fruit in it, Call To Arms can help with that. It’s almost contract brewing, but with community feedback and a very neighborly touch.
A few months ago, the three resigned from Avery. “The day we sat down to resign was easily the hardest day of my professional life,” says Brookstein. But, in what Bell calls a real testament to the industry, Avery is fully in support of Call To Arms. Owner Adam Avery even offered to talk shop after they resigned. “He used to work here. It’s cool, he’s one of us,” says Cross, describing how current employees have responded.
Jon Cross, “the brains” of Call To Arms, started his career with a Biology degree and a penchant for homebrewing. He finished the Master Brewers Program at UC Davis in California in 2010 and went straight to work at Avery. Over his four years there, Cross worked in packaging, brewing, and finally in the cellar. “This kid comes in with his flannel, smelling of Acqua Di Gio,” remembers Brookstein. “And then he starts taping boxes, and he’s one of the best I’ve seen.”
Jesse Brookstein, “the artist” of Call to Arms, began his beer career with a distributor out East. He moved on to an internship at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York, before finding work with Twisted Pine in Boulder. Seven months later, Brookstein found his place at Avery, and remained there for the past six-and-a-half years. “I was surprised when Jesse brought up the idea of a new brewery,” says Cross. “I figured he was Avery for life.”
Chris Bell, “the business” of Call To Arms, entered the industry as most do: he home-brewed in college. He and a buddy planned to open a brewery right after school, but Bell wanted to get some experience first and learn the ropes. His friend ended up opening Aspen Brewing Company a little while later, while Bell found work at Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. After a short stint at Twisted Pine, Bell brewed at Avery for the past three years.
While everyone has been incredibly supportive, from the staff at Avery to mentors Brian Hutchinson and Jason Stengl at Cannonball Creek in Golden to basically everyone who has heard the plan, Call To Arms faces a unique hurdle. With the experience and names the owners carry, expectations will be incredibly high for this new brewery. Will the craft beer consuming public allow Call To Arms the leeway of a new brewery stretching its legs and adjusting to a new system and new recipes? Or will the assumption be perfection from the start?
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