Tuesday, May 17, 2011

(P)review 2: Pateros Creek Brewing Co.

I am rarely on time. Chuck will attest to this. So will my wife, my optometrist, and my high school band director. But to Pateros Creek I was a good six weeks early. They won’t open to the public until around the beginning of June (though they have been brewing out of Loveland, CO, since September of last year). Bob Jones, Pateros’s business manager, was kind enough to let me crash his painting party in the middle of the day three weeks ago to talk about beer and his brewery that will soon be.

I found Bob taking a break from his decorating duties and chatting with the heating and cooling guy over the heat exchanger on their 10-barrel system. The giant brass tanks are shiny and new-looking, save a few transportation battle scars. Pateros picked them up from a defunct brewery in Wisconsin. There's a great video of the installation on Youtube. Bob informed me their plan was to be brewing by the following week. Given that much of their equipment is still in Loveland, and the rather naked state of the brewery (not unlike my sprinkler system: a few pieces lying about, looking really good, but not actually attached to anything), I thought this was pretty optimistic. (If pictures and Twitter feeds are to be believed, the first batch was, indeed, fired up almost exactly a week later.)

Bob manages to be soft spoken but conversational, quiet but informative. Like a science teacher. Or Ira Glass. Bob’s son, Steve, is the brewer, giving them a kind of inside guy/outside guy division of labor reminiscent of ‘Beer School.’ Steve’s wife, Cathy, is also involved, in the position of “Marketing/Creative Director.” That’s no small job, even at this small brewery. Pateros, after all, has not always been Pateros. They initially incorporated as Horsetooth Brewing Company. However, Fort Collins is a serious beer town, home of the Liquid Poets Society and nine official breweries. You’re bound to encounter some beer overlap. Sure enough, Pateros got a call from another local brewery that laid claim to the name ‘Horsetooth’ for one of their own beers. Right behind the call came a nasty letter from an attorney, backing everything up with nasty words. Words like “cease and desist” and “trademark infringement” and "res judicata," I imagine.

Attorneys. Pfft.

So the Horsetooth Brewing Company agreed to change their name. Accordingly, they fired up the marketing machine. They devised a brilliant way to expand the publicity they were getting from the threat of beer-on-beer legal action: an invitation to the public to rename them. It was wildly successful. Bob said they got something like 600 suggestions. That’s 600 people who knew the brewery existed and were interested enough to want to contribute something. All before selling a single pint. The winning name—Pateros, obvs—is its own conversation piece. Ask Bob or Steve about it next time you’re in there. (Or read about it.)

This spat does seem to have a relatively happy ending. Both Pateros and the Horsetooth brewer joined the seven other breweries for the second annual “FC Collusion.” They all get together and collectively produce a single brew, which they just released today in honor of ACBW. I don’t know if Bob or Steve hung out with their (former?) rival. I didn’t follow-up or anything. But I watched the video and didn’t see any attorneys milling about. So I’m guessing it went okay.

Look for Pateros to open in the next few weeks. They’re right on College, just a block or two from the north end of the strip. Pateros beer is already in restaurants around town, but I’m going to wait until I can enjoy it fresh out of the tap. Sitting out on their patio. Sipping a Cache la Porter. Having discussions about trademarks and local history. And not worrying about the time.

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