Beer Man

Three Freaks Brewery gears up to open in Highlands Ranch

Jeff Atencio brewed his first batch of beer in 1987 while he was a student and a fire fighter living in Vail. Now, 26 years later, he and business partner Todd McClure, are ready to go pro. They'll open Three Freaks Brewery in Highlands Ranch this winter. "I've been hemming and hawing about opening a brewery for years," says Atencio, who met McClure a couple years ago in a beer judging class held at Lone Tree Brewing. "And it finally progressed to the point where I could move forward."

See also: Grist Brewing is the first of many new breweries in the southern suburbs

The brewery is jokingly named for Atencio's three kids -- "I don't know if they appreciate it or not; I never stopped to ask," he says -- and will include a five-barrel brewing system, at least five beers on tap and room for about forty people in the taproom.

"It's very small, and that's kind of by design, in order to keep an intimate atmosphere," he says. "We want to be able to talk to people about the beer and keep people smiling."

Atencio is planning to brew a version of a Belgian dubbel that won him a bronze medal at the Colorado State Fair two years ago, a stout and a red that McClure developed.

"We're looking forward to having some fun, being creative and getting some high-gravity beers," he says. "We will be all over the spectrum."

Eventually, he's like to make a gluten-free beer as well.

Three Freaks, at 7140 East County Line Road, will be the second brewery to open in Highlands Ranch; the first, Grist Brewing, started pouring just this month.

The two companies are part of a wave of new breweries destined for Denver's southern suburbs, including Blue Spruce Brewery and Two22 Brew, which are both scheduled to open in Centennial by the end of 2013; 38 State Brewing, which will open in Littleton; and Hall Brewing, which already bottles its beers from a production facility near Parker, but plans to add a tap room in that town next year.

Breckenridge Brewery is also planning to move its Denver headquarters to a twelve-acre, $20 million brewing campus in Littleton in 2014.

"There's going to be an explosion of breweries, between Lone Tree and what will ultimately be Breckenridge's new brewery in Littleton," says Atencio, who has met the owners of Grist, Blue Spruce and 38 State and hopes to organize bus tours one day so that "the beer connoisseur can get a sample of each style that is being produced."

Three Freaks could open as soon as late December, although that may turn into January, depending on the permitting process.

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