Like other brewery owners in Colorado, Steve Skalski had one of several “revelations” about opening his own place while he was sitting at Strange Craft Beer Company.
Today, Skalski owns the successful Guanella Pass Brewing in Georgetown, along with a second taproom and kitchen a few miles away in the former Hard Rock Cafe building (no, not that Hard Rock Cafe) in the town of Empire. This spring, he and chef Andy Baxter, a longtime friend and business partner, will add another restaurant, Cafe Silverbrick, in a historic building next to the brewery in Georgetown.
And just as he did more than four years ago, Skalski will rely on Strange Craft founder and owner Tim Myers for advice and, in this case, some specialty beer recipes for Silverbrick. “Tim and I have been friends ever since I decided to get into the business,” says Skalski, who spent most of his career as an executive with entertainment and satellite TV companies. “So in order to do [Silverbrick] the right way, we wanted to get Tim involved.”
The restaurant will specialize in seasonal Alpine-style cuisine, including coq a vin, meatballs, beef Bourguignon, French onion soup and dressed heirloom tomatoes — or what Baxter calls “comfy and simple but with amazing technique” and “French brasserie with a Colorado twist.”
To pair with those dishes, Myers is brewing six beers to match the food by taking cues from the mountainous regions of Europe, as well: a Norwegian farmhouse ale brewed with juniper berries and kveik yeast; a French saison with ginger; an IPA made with Edelweiss hops; a schwarzbier with coffee roasted at Skalski’s kitchen in Empire; a Belgian table beer with Riesling grape juice; and a classic Kolsch.
Most will be in the 5 to 6 percent ABV range — in deference to Georgetown’s elevation of 8,530 feet above sea level — except for the Belgian table beer, which will be about 3 percent. Skalski and Myers will likely rotate in some seasonal beers, too, to match the changing food and weather.
Five of these beers will be on tap on Friday, April 2, at Strange Craft for a special event so that Myers can get customer feedback before he brews them again.
“Steve has to do all the work on this project, and I get to have all the fun,” Myers says with a laugh. “But for me, this is a great way to get the Strange name out there.”
It is also a way for both Guanella Pass and Strange to build back business as they recover from the effects of the pandemic, which forced breweries, bars and restaurants all over the state to close or limit their capacity. Having Myers brew the beer will give Strange a dedicated account to sell to while easing the pressure on Guanella Pass’s brewhouse so that it can keep up with its two soon-to-be-busy taprooms.
Although Skalski had always planned to have food at the brewery, he had to fast-track those plans a year ago by making Detroit-style pizza in Empire and taking it to Georgetown, since breweries were only allowed to stay open if they also had a dedicated food option. Silverbrick will make that permanent and continue to make the brewery a destination for I-70 travelers.
Once it's open, the “campus” will include the brewery, the restaurant and two large outdoor patio spaces. The patio in the back will have space for pétanque (the French version of bocce) and fire pits. There's also room for two new fifteen-barrel fermentation tanks that will help the brewery expand its capacity.
As for the building, which Skalski bought in 2018, it was built in the 1860s, but with a tragic twist when one of the walls collapsed and killed a construction worker — a result of using material that didn't take altitude into account. Oddly, the same wall collapsed earlier this year while Skalski was doing renovations (no one was hurt this time).
Over the years, the building has served as a music venue (with its own pipe organ), the town post office, an auto repair shop in the 1950s (the brewery next door was a gas station), and as an office for town resident Melvin Reichwein, who installed Georgetown’s first cable TV system. It has also had a number of storefront tenants, including a bookstore and an antique shop.
Now it will serve as an Alpine-style restaurant, something that Baxter says there is a strange dearth of in a region that closely resembles the Alps.
Skalski and Baxter hope to open Silverbrick by Memorial Day, when a "flip switches" in Georgetown, Skalski says, and tourist traffic explodes. That weekend will also mark the brewery's four-year anniversary.
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