Beer Man

Three Denver Breweries Get New Head Brewers

Derick Rivera will man the mashtun at MobCraft.
Derick Rivera will man the mashtun at MobCraft. MobCraft Beer
MobCraft Beer, the Wisconsin-based brewery that is opening in the former Liberati Brewing space in Curtis Park, has hired Derick Rivera as head brewer. Rivera worked for four years at Rockyard Brewing in Castle Rock, where he moved up from cellarman to shift brewer to head brewer. Rivera has also served as cellar manager at Upslope Brewing and head brewer at Byers Peak Brewery in Winter Park.

“We could not be more thrilled to have Derick as part of the MobCraft Team. He brings a high level of experience, passion and incredible knowledge for the craft to our new Denver taproom," says MobCraft co-founder Henry Schwartz in a statement. "He felt like an instant fit to our team, and we can’t wait to get him brewing and open the doors to the new location.”

Mobcraft, which will co-locate in the space at 2403 Champa Street with Dee Tacko, has an unusual model in that it crowdsources its recipes. Customers submit ideas for beers and then vote on them by placing pre-orders — assuring the brewery that even the crazy recipes will have a paying audience. Schwartz told Westword last year that MobCraft's brewers have to be very talented because they have to be able to put together any recipe, from "asinine" to brilliant. The brewery plans to open in March or April.

click to enlarge Tomás Barrios at Cheluna Brewing. - CHELUNA BREWING
Tomás Barrios at Cheluna Brewing.
Cheluna Brewing
At Cheluna Brewing in Stanley Marketplace, Tomás Barrios has taken over the head brewer job from longtime local beermaker Eric Nichols (previously at Beryl's Beer). Barrios graduated from Boston College with a biology degree before enrolling at the renowned Hariot-Watt University in Scotland, where he studied brewing and distilling science. He has been introducing a wide variety of new recipes.

And at Black Shirt Brewing, Jerry Hopkins has taken over from David Sakolsky, who left in February, shortly after the brewery's founders sold it to new owners Jimmy and Karen Dodson. Hopkins began his brewing career with Kokopelli Beer Company in Westminster before taking over at De Steeg Brewing several years ago. De Steeg has since been sold and changed its name to Berkeley Alley Beer.

The winner of numerous home-brewing awards before going pro, Hopkins likes to drink "clean, crisp West Coast IPAs and complex wild spontaneous beers," Jimmy Dodson says. "We’re really excited to have Jerry as our head brewer, and look forward to both bringing back some of the red ales that Black Shirt is known for, but also for the new beers Jerry is going to bring for our customers to enjoy."

click to enlarge 105 West's Hayley Thorson. - 105 WEST BREWING
105 West's Hayley Thorson.
105 West Brewing
Other recent head brewer changes around the metro area include journeyman brewer Kjell Wygant, who is now top dog at Two 22 Brewing in Aurora. Wygant had previously worked at 105 West Brewing and Rockyard Brewing, both in Castle Rock, among others.

Taking over for him at 105 is Hayley Thorson, who studied fermentation science and technology at Colorado State University before interning at 105 West. Thorson eventually got a job as an assistant brewer there, learning the ins and outs of the brewhouse.

Meanwhile, Barrels & Bottles Brewery in Golden has snatched Chris Munda from Joyride Brewing in Edgewater, where he spent three and a half years. Before that, he was with Ursula Brewing.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes