Elevation Beer Company, opening this weekend, compares itself to a winery

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Elevation Beer Company may be located in Poncha Springs, but the brewery's four co-founders don't think of their place as a local hangout. "We are more like a winery than a typical brewpub," says Xandy Bustamante. "We could have done this from anywhere in country, so we figured, why not pick a place we love?"

So Bustamante, along with Sheila Bustamante, Carline Walsh and head brewer Christian Koch, will open the doors to Elevation on Saturday in the high country near the town of Salida -- with a visit from Governor John Hickenlooper.

And the beer maker -- one of at least ten new breweries opening this summer statewide -- will definitely take a different approach than some of the other breweries that have popped in Colorado recently: It will specialize in bottling more expensive, seasonal barrel-aged beers that it plans to distribute statewide.

"That is what we love to drink, so it's what we will be making," Bustamante says, adding that the brewery won't make the same beer two years in a row.

Elevation's beers fall into three categories, all based on the ski-slope rating system: Blue Square Series beers will be taproom-only beers that you'd typically find in a brewery; Black Diamond Series beers will be bigger brews that are available on draft and in 750 ml bottles; and Double Black Diamond Series beers will be the barrel-aged and bottled specialties that Elevation wants to be known for.

There will be eight Blue Square beers available on tap when the brewery opens, an IPA and a saison among them.

"We definitely have our everyday craft beers, but we want to be an artisan craft brewer," Bustamante says, naming Cigar City in Florida, Michaigan's Jolly Pumpkin and Colorado's own Funkwerks and Crooked Stave as examples of other artisan breweries.

The first Black Diamond beer, released this Saturday as well, will be Apis IV, a Belgian Quadrupel made with caramelized honey; the first Double Black Diamond beer will be released in July. Called Signal De Botrange, it will be a farmhouse ale brewed with brettanomyces yeast and aged in Napa Valley chardonnay barrels.

Elevation has a fifteen-barrel brewing system located in a 7,400-square-foot space. Its grand opening party will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, as part of American Craft Beer Week. There will be tours, firkins, live music and food vendors.

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