An Interview with Voyage Denver:
Whitney, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
City Star Brewing first opened its doors May 4th, 2012 after a year of construction and rehabilitation of the 100-year-old downtown Berthoud building. The taproom and brewery’s namesake is the City Star Barn livery stable, operated at the same location in the early 1900s.
Proprietors John and Whitney Way opened City Star, motivated by their passion for craft beer, community and creating meaningful experiences. Head brewer John Way was an avid home brewer with one year of packaging experience at Oskar Blues. He built the brewhouse, featuring a 3.5 barrel (100 gallons) direct fire brew system and two 7 barrel (200 gallons) fermentation tanks. The brewhouse has since grown to include 80 barrels worth of fermentation tanks, the addition of a whirlpool vessel, comprehensive glycol chilling system, installation of a second cold room, and an oak barrel aging program.
City Star Brewing was awarded Gold and Bronze medals at the world renown, Great American Beer Festival in 2013 and a Bronze medal in 2015. An extensive taproom expansion was completed in 2017, opening an outdoor beer garden and barrel house that doubles as an event space.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Opening and operating City Star has been a more than a worthwhile journey. The adventure has not been without its ups and downs and continual navigation of the tumultuous craft beer scene. Day to day struggles include (though are not limited to) frozen water pipes, refrigeration malfunctioning (over and over again), maintaining relationships with vendors, food trucks, musicians, staff, town, neighbors, customers, etc. Navigating actively running City Star as a married couple (especially during construction) has been a struggle at times. From every struggle we learn and grow making the business stronger as well as ourselves personally.
City Star Brewing – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
City Star is a taproom centric brewery with a focus on community and producing quality craft beer. Our taps line-up features 5 mainstay approachable beers and 5 rotating specialty beers. There is always a beer for everyone on tap, including our 3 Great American Beer Festival medal winning beers. With our relatively small brew system, we are afforded flexibility in regularly releasing new specialty and experimental beers.
John and Whitney are both very hands-on in the business, creating an inspired culture for staff and great experiences for guests. We are proud of all the details in our space that we crafted with love (and blood, sweat, and tears!)… from the oak barrel chandelier to the re-purposed wood tables, and hops in the beer garden.
As a keystone business in our small town City Star has helped revitalize the downtown business district. We regularly donate beer, merchandise, funds, and time to support local causes. City Star Brewing hosts the annual Hops and Harley festival in Berthoud, attracting 3,000+ festival goers to a fantastic community event that supports local non-profit Harley’s Dream. In 2019 the event raised $38,000 to support the organization’s mission to end puppy mills.
City Star also has a strong connection with the Berthoud Historical Society, sponsoring their events as well as raising funds for them at City Star’s Annual Flap Jack Day. In 2015, we brought back this Berthoud Labor Day tradition from the 50s. Now it’s an annual throwback event featuring vintage cars, Flap Jack Queen contest, 50’s dress, breakfast beer flights, and 1500+ free flapjacks.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success for us is happiness… for us, our family, staff, and customers. Markers range from online reviews to nice notes left behind, from staff interest in our business to simple laughter.
We’re doing this interview on our way from a two-week road trip. While gone our staff went above and beyond to take care of the brewery and taproom. Regular customers sent photos and ideas (and mowed our lawn!). This is a success. 🙂