Beer Man

The Brewability Lab Will Fill Caution's Denver Brewery With Good Works and Good Beer

The Brewability Lab, a startup brewery with the novel idea of providing jobs in the brewing industry for adults with developmental disabilities, will take over Caution Brewing's original location in east Denver sometime later this year. Caution, which was founded in 2011 by Danny and Betty Wang, is consolidating its operations at its Lakewood taphouse and looking to expand its brewing elsewhere.

“I was very lucky to find a turnkey brewery. I don't think that happens very often,” says Brewability owner Tiffany Fixter. “Danny really liked our idea, and I think that was one of the main reasons why we got the space.”

In addition to that space, inside a business park off of 39th Avenue and Peoria Street, the Brewability Lab will also get Caution's five-barrel brewing system (the equipment has some historical significance since it was one of Odell Brewing's first systems – and the one that its flagship 5 Barrel Pale Ale is named for) as well as the grain mill, canning line, bar, glassware, tap system and other equipment.

“Danny is an awesome guy,” Fixter says. “He has been so willing to help us and to teach us about the brewhouse and how to use it.”

Caution will continue to make beer there — and to operate its taproom — into the spring or early summer as Brewability works to get its state and federal liquor-licensing approval, but Fixster says she hopes to open the Brewability Lab shortly thereafter. She also plans to expand the hours (Caution was only open three days a week, for four hours each of those days) and redecorate to give the brewery an “old-school chemistry theme,” complete with 1930s and '40s era chemistry boxes, which will be used to serve flights.

Fixter, who has been teaching special-needs students for more than eight years in Kansas and Colorado, has been working on the idea of the Brewability Lab for more than a year and a half.

She successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign (and now has an IndiGoGo campaign going) last fall that raised $32,000, and worked with the Grandma's House brewery in Denver to train some of her future employees, many of whom are developmentally disabled. (The original plan called for Brewability to work out of Grandma's House.) The goal of the project is to provide support and training for a segment of society that typically has a hard time finding employment.

But certain aspects of brewing, and working in a brewery, require repetitive tasks that people with developmental disabilities can do well and do consistently, Fixter says. Those include cleaning kegs, glasses and tanks, shoveling spent grain, pouring beer, sanitizing equipment, weighing grain and hops, and canning and bottling beer.

The Brewability Lab's head brewer will be Toby Gerard, a longtime homebrewer who has also worked with developmentally-disabled adults. He plans to make a variety of beers, including an IPA, a cream ale, an oatmeal stout, a saison and a Belgian dark strong ale. They will be named both by the employees of Brewability and by people who donated to the Kickstarter campaign.

Caution Brewing was founded in 2011 in the location. In 2013, the Wangs opened a second location in Lakewood. That spot has a smaller brewing system for a much larger taproom. As a result, Caution will begin brewing somewhere else in an effort to expand, says Danny Wang. "We have outgrown the space. We are brewing as much as we can, but we are past the point where we want to brew five barrels at the time and hope it lasts us to the next time."

Wang has looked at expanding or finding another location, but says it's more likely that he will work with an existing brewery where he can share space or contract brew. "We are looking to expand production and a springtime push on packaging," he adds. "The brewery already cans its flagship Lao Wang lager, but hopes to add new, other beers to its canned lineup this year." 

As for the Brewability Lab, Wang concludes: "They are heads and shoulders above anyone else. I believe there is something unique there. They are doing a good thing, on top of making good beer. I am super-happy for them."