Andy Jessen, who co-founded Bonfire Brewing in the town of Eagle in 2010, was one of three well-known Eagle County skiers killed in an avalanche in the San Juan Mountains on Monday, February 1. The others were Seth Bossung and Adam Palmer. All three were friends who worked with or for Eagle County.
“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of these three men. Their contributions through their work in local government and local businesses, as well as their personal passions and their impact on the friends and family members they leave behind, have helped shape the community in ways that will be forever lasting," reads a statement from the Town of Eagle. "Every single one of us in both of our organizations has learned by their examples, and we are grateful to be able to call them colleagues.”
Jessen's death is also hitting Colorado's craft-beer community hard, and several other brewery owners and beer-industry professionals posted tributes to Jessen on Facebook and other social media sites. A GoFundMe page has been created by Jessen's friends to help support his wife, Amanda.
"Andy and I 'grew up' together in the Colorado craft beer scene. Both Strange and Bonfire opened in 2010, and a common thread in many of our earliest conversations was our transition from homebrewing to 'pro' and the common challenges we faced," writes Strange Craft Beer owner Tim Myers on Facebook, adding that he loved to catch up with Jessen at festivals around the state or in each other's taprooms.
"As our breweries grew, chances to hang out become rarer, but that only meant each chance for a beer together was just that much more special and cherished. In May 2019, sitting in his taproom enjoying a WtFO, while he reveled us with his latest taproom expansion plans, I'd never seen him happier," Myers adds.
Located on a sprawling corner in Eagle, Bonfire grew into a community gathering place over the years, complete with music, patio games and beers that were also distributed along the Front Range. The brewery produced nearly 3,500 barrels in 2020 and completed a brewhouse expansion and patio adjustments that include a massive heated tent. It was known for its huge annual block party, its slogan "gather ’round," and its flagship WtFO Double IPA.
Bonfire's 2020 production equated to more than one million cans; the brewery is wrapping up installation of an expansion in capacity and improvements to existing equipment, including an upgraded glycol chiller system, the addition of 1,600 barrels of fermentation capacity, equipment to facilitate the packaging of barrel-aged beers, and the ability to package beer in sixteen-ounce cans.
Jessen talked about that growth, as well as the pandemic, at the end of 2020, telling Radcraft that he was able to retain 100 percent of his employees despite the challenges. “We fully employed everyone throughout the year by pivoting and adapting to every obstacle thrown our way," he said. "It took years to put this talented team together, and one of our biggest fears at the outset of the pandemic was the chance we might lose that. Being able to keep the team intact is something we’re very grateful for.”
Bonfire is closed today, and a spokeswoman has asked for privacy for Jessen's family and employees.