Jan 182011
 
Authors: Jim Sojourner

From the tap nozzle, dark golden-brown liquid cascades down into the gaping glass maw, ebbing and swirling in its clouded pool, foam licking at the edges as the brown tide rises.

Across the bar, the gathered crowd looks on with hungry eyes as the unabated torrent of Mr. Delicious Oatmeal Stout creeps to the glass rim and suds brim over, running in a gentle rivulet over the knuckles of the glass-tilting hand below.

The crowd isn’t here for greasy bar burgers, and they’re not here for rowdy football games on wall-sized LCD screens; they’re not here for blood-thumping bass beats, and they’re not here for near-naked, buxom bartenders. Everyone is here for one thing: that overflowing glass of beer.

Because according to spousal owners Shannon and Colin Wescott, if Equinox Brewing does anything right, it’s really good beer.

“That’s all we do,” Colin Wescott said, “so it better be good.”

Located on Remington Street near Old Town, it’s hard to argue that the Wescotts’ operation is about anything but beer. Infused with a hip, coffee-shop feel, Equinox has no televisions on the wall, doesn’t serve food beyond a few snacks and the in-house entertainment consists of board games, summertime live music and friends.

And in a city that has become something of a craft-brew Mecca, saturated with breweries, brew pubs and bars, that’s just the way the Wescotts like it.

Equinox, Shannon Wescott said, is the culmination of almost a decade of dreaming and brewing. Before moving to Fort Collins, Colin Wescott spent nine years brewing at Kettlehouse Brewing in Missoula, Mont. and then at Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage, Alaska.

The couple moved to Fort Collins hoping that, with brewing opportunities at local large craft breweries like New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Co. and The Fort Collins Brewery abounding, finding work would be easy.

Not so much, the Wescotts found, and with no brewing jobs available, the pair decided to open up the local homebrew supply shop Hops and Berries next to what is now Equinox. After more than five years of selling brewing ingredients, the space next to Hops and Berries opened up and the Wescotts jumped in.

Shannon Westcott said first and foremost they didn’t want Equinox to be another New Belgium, Odell or Fort Collins Brewery. Hearkening back to the days before prohibition when bars were a local, neighborhood affair, she said Equinox focuses on its tap house, not distribution.

Equinox has limited distribution to bars within Fort Collins, she said, mostly to get the brewery’s name out and get people into the establishment where the beer flows freshest.

“We like the idea because we believe beer is best fresh,” Shannon Westcott said.

Unlike the larger craft breweries that are restricted to certain beer varieties by what distributors demand, the village-style smallness and the fact that Equinox just bottled its first and possibly only bottled beer –– which is still only available in-house –– allow Colin Wescott brewing freedom and independence that can’t be found at larger breweries.

“We get to do what we want to do,” Colin Wescott said. “I love brewing beers.”

And with each beer batch lasting only about five weeks on tap, Colin Wescott is always busy experimenting with new beer recipes that Odell Head Brewer Joe Mohrfeld described as “whimsical.”

From the smooth Mr. Delicious Oatmeal Stout to the Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal-winning Eclipse Brown Ale to the quirky Saison Indian Pale Ale recently on tap, the creative aspect of brewing is what keeps Colin Wescott going and what’s kept customers walking through the door since Equinox opened just more than eight months ago.

“It’s pure creation,” Colin Wescott said. “It’s making something.”

Sitting against the wall underneath the dimmed lights and fanciful paintings that line Equinox’s walls, Ashley Griffin, a former Fort Collins Brewery employee, doesn’t have to shout over the soft music playing in the background to agree that the creativity and variety of the brews is what got her back into Equinox for a second time.

The combination of frequently rotating brews and the friendly atmosphere, she said, appeal to her, not to mention that oatmeal stout. You gotta start with good beer, she said.

“You can say they have an amazing oatmeal stout,” Griffin said, “because they do.”

With people like Griffin coming back for more, Shannon Wescott said Equinox’s customer base keeps growing. Certain beers like the Eclipse Brown Ale have become crowd favorites, and the brewery is trying to always keep those on tap in addition to the new creations that come and go.

But despite Equinox’s success as a local craft brewery, Shannon and Colin Wescott said they’re not competing with anyone. The giants of the local craft-brewing scene, New Belgium, Odell and The Fort Collins Brewery, agree, and the Wescotts said the larger breweries have all been supportive of their little operation.

Vice President for Operations for The Fort Collins Brewery Jan Peters said new craft breweries like Equinox help bring awareness to the craft-brewing industry, which still holds only a small corner of the beer market when compared to leviathans like Anheuser-Busch. Coffee, she said in an e-mail, was just a beverage until companies like Starbucks came along and offered choices and varieties, and beer is no different.

For Mohrfeld at Odell, the ultra-local, nano-brewery style Equinox brings to Fort Collins connects the brewery to the town and enhances the city’s famous beer culture by bringing new styles and a new model to the table. It’s very much Fort Collins, he said.
“We think what they’re doing is super cool,” Mohrfeld said.

Started as a homebrew based out of its founder’s house, New Belgium is intimately familiar with Equinox’s model, said New Belgium Media Relations Director Bryan Simpson in an e-mail, and New Belgium is also happy to see Equinox succeeding. And Simpson too came back to the beer.

“They are bringing new things to the table – their Saison IPA is exceptional and no one else is doing that right now,” he said.

Managing Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

All about Equinox

  • What: Equinox Brewing
  • Where: 133 Remington Street
  • When:
    Tuesday – Thursday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Friday – Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    Sunday – 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Why: “To try really good beer.” – Equinox owner Colin Wescott
 Posted by at 4:43 pm

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