Beer Man

First look: Chain Reaction Brewing hopes to avoid problems other nanobreweries have faced

Opening a nanobrewery in Denver has proven to be a challenge over the past couple of years: The city has such a thirst for craft beer that nanos -- breweries that only make three barrels at at time or less -- sell out fast, sometimes during their opening weekend. Some have had to limit their hours or close unexpectedly so that their brewers can keep up -- something that isn't easy on systems that only produce a few kegs per batch.

Cousins Zack and Chad Christofferson, who will open Chain Reaction Brewing in the Athmar neighborhood on Saturday, June 21, have watched their colleagues struggle, which is why they started making beers more than a month before their grand opening date.

See also: 3 Freaks Brewery is now pouring in Highlands Ranch

"We saw the growing pains that everyone went through," says Zack. "You don't want to run out of beer. It's just not what you want to happen."

Although Chain Reaction operates a tiny one-barrel system -- it makes two kegs of beer at a time -- it will have sixteen beers on tap on Saturday, everything from a Belgian rye stout to an IPA to a pink peppercorn saison. And if those beers run out, the cousins have lined up backups for each tap handle in their variety of small fermentation tanks.

"We've put together quite a recipe collection over the years," says Chad of the homebrewing the two have done. They currently own more than 45 beer recipes. To keep them all straight, the beers are identified with women's names behind the scenes.

The small size of the system means a lot more work -- "we brewed seven barrels in one day last week," Zack says -- but it allows them the freedom to try out numerous styles and ideas. "We both like a ton of different beers," he adds.

But hard work is something they are used to. Both Zack's and Chad's fathers are carpenters, a family trade that has been helpful during construction of the brewery. The bar, tables and much of the décor is made from beetle-kill wood that comes from a family-owned sawmill in the town of Tabernash.

But the Christoffersons also learned how to cook from their grandmother, something that led them to their interest in brewing with a wide variety of ingredients.

These trades, and the craftsmanship that is important to their families, is what led them to the name Chain Reaction, Zack says. "We look at it all as a chain reaction."

The 3,600 square-foot brewery can seat fifty people and has an open floorplan so that customers can watch the Christoffersons work and can see how the beer is made.

For opening day, the brewery will serve IPA, orange cream ale, red ale, pink peppercorn saison, pale ale, porter, Belgian rye stout, pale American wheat, rye IPA, lemon IPA, blonde ale, and several others.

Turn the page to see more photos of Chain Reaction Brewing.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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