Three years ago, when it came to find the space to open his own brewery, Gardiner Hammond’s first thought was the Capitol Hill area: The night life and music scene in the area had been a draw to him when he was 21.
“It was always a hangout for me,” Hammond, now 33, said. “This is a pretty mellow vibe around here.”
And the vibe has been good: Come November, Hammond, who lives in nearby Congress Park, will celebrate the four-year anniversary of the Alpine Dog Brewing Co., 1505 N. Ogden St., tucked just around the corner from the Ogden Theatre on Colfax Avenue.
Hammond was born in California, but moved to Morisson when he was 7. He briefly returned to California, where he studied finance at Santa Clara University. But the economy took a turn, making a career in that field difficult.
“In 2008, that was real promising,” he said, jokingly.
While attending school in California, Hammond said he was bitten by the craft beer bug. It wasn’t until after college that he began to brew as a hobby. As time went on, he decided it was something he could do for a living.
“I thought that the business aspect of a small brewery would be cool, something that you could put your personal stamp on.”
Hammond started working at the now defunct Old Mill Brewery and Grill in Littleton. After learning all he could about beer styles and tools of the trade, he left to make his own start with Alpine Dog.
Having a background in finance did help Hammond in the early phases of starting a brewery. Breweries typically require significant investment in equipment and buildout. His degree, he said, helped him with initial fundraising.
When Alpine Dog opened in 2014, the brewery launched with a flagship New England-style IPA called Thunder Puppy. The IPA craze has taken over Denver, with many breweries offering their own style and flair to the brew. Alpine Dog is no different, Hammond said. The Thunder Puppy is still Alpine Dog’s best seller, making up anywhere from a quarter to half of the brewery’s sales every month.
The IPA is one of Hammond’s favorite styles of beer. When making beer, he finds inspiration from foods like chocolates and jams. But he typically is inspired by the beers themselves.
“I try to take what I like about a style, say IPA, and emphasize what I like about it personally and let if develop in that direction,” he said. “That can change over time as my tastes change.”
Alpine Dog offers 14 rotating beers.
Owning a brewery is more than just finding the perfect recipe. Hammond said he spends anywhere from eight to 16 hours in the brewery. He can be found mixing beers, delivering kegs or working on the computer. Old Mill, he said, helped prepare him to some extent for the long hours.
Running a brewery “involves a lot of multi-tasking generally,” he said. “Before you do 100 hours a week, it’s hard to know exactly what that can be like.”
But working in the Uptown community makes the long hours worth it to Hammond. The brewery frequently hosts events, including a monthly cheese and beer pairing and the weekly running club, which attracts 15 to 25 people every Tuesday.
“We’re very much a neighborhood bar,” Hammond said. “We try to do a lot of special events because we think that’s fun, and it keeps it fresh for the neighborhood along with rotating beers.”
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