Blake Butler was born in Texas but grew up in Colorado. And although he attended Smokey Hill High School in Aurora, he hadn't considered opening his planned brewery there.
"But it's a strange universe on how things come together," he says.
On March 15, Butler will open Six Capital Brewing at 16701 East Iliff Avenue, replacing Peak to Peak Brewery, whose owners Gordon and Joy McKennon have been trying to sell for more than a year so that they can travel and "enjoy great craft beer on the other side of the bar," according to a February Facebook post. The McKennons sold their other location, at 9735 East Colfax Avenue, to Lady Justice Brewing in March 2020.
Named for a period in Texas history when the state was independent, Six Capital will serve at least eight beers on tap, along with Texas-style barbecue and a diverse menu that includes bao buns, banh mi, smoked tofu, tacos and boudin. Although Butler has worked primarily in the energy business, he was a kitchen manager and chef for ten years before that and has continued to serve as a private chef and caterer, spending nights and weekends helping out on friends' food trucks, competing in national barbecue competitions and home-brewing.
"I am absolutely enthralled with everything craft beer," says the seventh-generation Texan, who has taught home-brewing classes over the years. "Next to beer, culinary arts and barbecue are my two biggest passions."
About three years ago, he got serious about opening a brewery and started talking to brewers and refining his recipes, running them all by his friend Jason Reinhart, co-owner of Locavore Beer Works in Littleton. "Jason would pick the flavor profile apart, make suggestions and repeat," Butler says.
Although Butler and his wife weren't looking for a spot in Aurora, when they saw that Peak to Peak was for sale, they knew it could be the right fit. It has a "smaller brewhouse, kitchen, and [is] located close enough to the house," he says. "We visited for lunch one Friday — this was actually my first time there — scheduled a tour the next day, and made an offer that Tuesday. Gordon McKennon has been a pleasure to work with."
Peak to Peak started in 2014 as a small craft-beer bar with food before the McKennons expanded and added a brewery in 2017. They took over the former Mu Brewery on Colfax the next year as a way to help keep up with demand. But after a few years, the couple decided to move on. We "have thoroughly enjoyed not only being a part of the neighborhood, but also the brewing community at large," they wrote on Facebook in February.
Butler is taking over all of the equipment, but his centerpiece will be an Ole Hickory Pit smoker, which is being built in Missouri. "These are the best on the market, and being used locally by some of the best," he says.
As for his "beer philosophy," Butler says he plans to "pay homage to classic styles while branching out to creative and interesting beers. We try to stay as close to the classics as possible, following BJCP and BA guidelines. We’ll have blondes, ambers, stouts, IPAs [and] hefeweizens," along with what he calls "fun beers. My favorite is big, heavy imperial stouts with Oreos, peanut butter cups or shortbread cookies." He also has plans for a Sitka spruce and pink-peppercorn saison, and a Scottish ale that uses heather instead of hops.
Butler is finishing some cosmetic changes this week, making sure the taproom is COVID-compliant and training his staff. "All of them will eventually earn their Certified Beer Server (Cicerone) or Certified Beer Judge (BJCP) certifications, which we are paying for," he says. "I’ll also be hosting sensory training and history-of-style classes with the staff so we’re a bit more educated in our products.
"Beer education is one of my favorite pastimes, and getting into historical brewing theory discussions is what we love best," he adds.
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