The Butcherknife Brewing Co. plans to build a 4,000-square-foot beer manufacturing facility along Elk River Road.

Courtesy Moon Hill Design/courtesy

The Butcherknife Brewing Co. plans to build a 4,000-square-foot beer manufacturing facility along Elk River Road.

Beer brewers ready to build in west Steamboat

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Interview with owner of Butcherknife Brewing Co.

Mark Fitzgerald, one of the owners of Butcherknife Brewing Co., talks about his upcoming brewery in Steamboat.

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Matt Stensland/file

Steamboat Springs-based Butcherknife Brewing Co. owners Mark Fitzgerald, right, and Nate Johansing debut their beer during OktoberWest in 2011. This year, the business owners are finalizing plans to build a brewery on the west side of Steamboat Springs.

— The owners of Butcherknife Brewing Co. are expecting approval any day from the city’s building department to begin construction of a beer manufacturing facility on the west side of Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs residents Mark Fitzgerald and Nate Johansing are opening the brewery. Fitzgerald said Friday that if everything goes as planned, they will be at full-scale production by late March or early April.

The 4,000-square-foot brewery will be built on an empty lot in the Airport Meadows subdivision on the west side of Elk River Road.

Allowing for expansion of the brewery was an important factor in the building’s design and location.

“For a lot of smaller breweries, the biggest problem they face is growing pains,” Fitzgerald said.

The brewery will be built with 20-foot ceilings that will allow the owners the opportunity to install larger brewing equipment in the future that could brew three times the volume of beer. A vacant lot also presents the opportunity to add onto the building in the future.

Initially, a 30-barrel system will be installed that will allow Butcherknife to produce an average of 60 kegs of beer every 20 days, Fitzgerald said.

The facility will include a tasting room with two large garage doors leading to an outdoor patio.

Butcherknife initially plans to distribute beer through kegs to local restaurants and distributors. Fitzgerald said canning equipment also is being purchased, and he anticipates cans of beer to be available by next fall. Fitzgerald said craft breweries on average sell 75 percent of their beer through bottles and cans.

Fitzgerald said that since he registered the business name in 2009, they have been working to set up the business without taking on any debt.

“We’re putting everything we have into this,” Fitzgerald said.

Aside from researching the logistics of building a brewery, the business partners have invested in hiring attorneys to establish the business entity, researching recipes and learning about the industry. That has involved traveling to trade shows and other craft breweries. They recently returned from the Fort Collins Brewery and purchased one of the company’s used delivery trucks.

Fitzgerald acknowledged that the investment has come with some nervousness and a few restless nights. There already have been learning experiences and some challenges to overcome. For example, during their second appearance at the Steamboat OktoberWest beer festival last weekend, Fitzgerald and Johansing were battling foamy beer coming out of their kegs. With their current small-scale, home-based brewing operation, Fitzgerald said it can be challenging to add the right amount of carbonation. The OktoberWest beer had too much of it.

Despite the problem, Fitzgerald said the beer festival was a success. He said the company's gluten-free beer was a hit, and it was the first beer they ran out of.

“We served a lot of great beer, and people were really excited,” Fitzgerald said.

While Butcherknife is not accepting job applications, Fitzgerald said he and Johansing will need help in the future, and they anticipate hiring two employees in the first year of operation.

“We’re going to let it grow organically,” Fitzgerald said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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