Tennyson Street is many different things to many different people: arts district, restaurant mecca, former construction zone, financial lifeblood, symbol of a gentrifying city, buzzy place to spend (and spend money) all day. For the owners of Empourium Brewing Company, which opened today at noon, the street feels like home.
"We have spent a lot of time in Fort Collins and we loved the feel of Old Town — the mom-and-pop shops, the small businesses and local feel. Tennyson Street has that same feel to us," says Greg Fetzer, who owns Empourium with his wife, Sara (they're both Colorado natives), and their friends, Mike Cugini and Justin Vallely.
The group got to know each other over the course of several years; Greg and Justin were college friends who home-brewed together, while the Fetzers met Cugini later after Greg left his career in event planning to become a brewer. Greg had started at Rogue Brewing in Oregon before moving back to Colorado five years ago and taking a job at Rockyard Brewing in Castle Rock, where he eventually became head brewer.
"We knew we always wanted to work for ourselves," says Greg, who learned about nearly every side of the business at Rockyard, where he helped oversee a recipe and packaging overhaul.
When the time came to choose a location, the group signed on for a slot in a brick building at 4385 West 42nd Avenue (across from César Chávez Park) that was going to be gutted and renovated. When it opens today, the 3,400-square-foot brewery will house a ten-barrel brewing system, twelve taps (including one nitro tap) and space for 99 guests inside and thirty on the patio. But it also has a unique look and feel inside. For starters, a vibrant color scheme of red and black blends into a huge mural on one wall that was painted by Drew Button (who also designed Rockyard's new can labels).
On the east side are two massive, floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead to the brewery itself. The setup allows beer drinkers in the taproom to watch the work going on back there, but with a physical separation to help with cleanliness.
"When people walk in, we don't want them to feel like they've been here before," explains Vallely, an engineer, about the decor, which blends their modern look with the original brick from the building.
Other special touches include custom-made tasting trays and tap handles (with magnet labels that can be easily interchanged), unusual glassware, purse hooks, phone charging outlets, an outdoor space reserved for food trucks and menus that list all the other businesses along Tennyson Street.
"There is so much competition out there," Sara adds. "We learned a lot at Rogue about marketing and branding and so we've spent a lot of time making a brand and not just a brewery. We always said [that] if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right. You only have one chance to make a first impression."
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Many of the details — including the name of the brewery itself — come from pop culture references in movies and music. For instance, there's Gettin' Schwifty Saison (which takes its name from the show Rick and Morty) and Conditions of My Parole Coffee Blond refers to the band Puscifer.
"Empourium" is a play on words that refers both to the hangout in the movie Dazed & Confused and to a similar hangout in the small Colorado town where Greg grew up. "It's a little bit of everything," he says. "It's the kind of place where everyone hangs out. That's what we want this to be."
When the brewery opens today, it will have at least six beers on tap, including Bang-A-Rang Brut IPA; Peace, Love & Pale Ale; Krusher Cream Ale with peaches, apricots and vanilla beans; Gettin' Schwifty Saison; and Conditions of My Parole Coffee Blonde.
Tennyson Street has quickly become a real hot spot for beer drinkers. Empourium joins Call to Arms, the Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shop & Brewery, De Steeg/Blind Faith and FlyteCo in the stretch of just a few blocks.