While sipping a five-beer sample tray in a tap room with views of a picturesque mountain landscape through towering heaps of hop plants, it’s easy to see the folks at High Hops Brewery have discovered something special in their journey to bring the craft beer culture to Windsor.
Positioned on the western outskirts of town, the Weakland family’s sprawling 15-acre plot has seen big changes during two decades. In addition to the Windsor Gardener greenhouse, the family-owned compound added a beer brewing supply shop and hops field years ago.
But as time marched on, so did their devotion to all-things beer, which has led to the grand opening of the town’s first and only brewery Friday and Saturday at 6461 Colo. 392 in Windsor just west of King Soopers.
“We put everything we had into this thing,” said Pat Weakland, a man whose passion hinged on home brewing for years until he realized it could actually become something more.
“We found ways to get the money so we could control this thing with our family,” he added. “I feel like we’ve really accomplished an enormous amount.”
The family’s journey from a small greenhouse shop to a brewery and area-leading hop farm was anything but easy for the longtime Windsor residents whose quest has turned into a dream come true.
With the help of his wife Amanda, son Zach, daughter Rachel and a network of extended family and friends, the dream really came together in recent years.
But it wasn’t until after the hops field was established in 2007 that it started taking on a life of its own.
Currently, 35 different types of hop plants grow among the more than 2,000 plants in the 2.5-acre field – one of the largest varieties in the country.
“I’ve been a beer enthusiast pretty much all my life,” Pat Weakland said. “We decided, ‘let’s turn this passion into a business.’ ”
Known as a beer drinkers’ paradise for years, Northern Colorado is no stranger craft breweries. Everywhere you turn in Fort Collins, a new tasting room seems to be opening its doors, and events like the Great American Beer Festival in Denver highlight how diverse the culture has become.
“We’re now a part of it, and Windsor can claim its part of it too,” Pat Weakland said. “I think that’s going to be huge for this community.”
Only High Hops Brewery is a little different.
From the moment you park your vehicle, a full-scale brewery operation is the last thing you would expect to see behind the shelves of gardening tools and potted plants.
But behind the mask of retail and countless hours of labor is a hops-lovers destination.
Whether sipping a dark stout loaded with galena hops, relaxing with a lemon pilsner brewed with coriander, or downing the Power of Zeus pale ale, there is bound to be something for everyone.
After all, that’s their slogan: “All types of beers for all types of people.”
To say Zach Weakland has a hand in the process would be only the beginning. Raised around a culture where he remembers his parents playing chemistry with beer fermentation, beakers and tubes, he said the drive to produce quality drinks runs deep.
Now he can conjure 300 gallons of brew in a day thanks to a streamlined process of filters, fermenting vessels, and holding tanks in a towering shed just steps away from the hops field.
“We did things right and it has come together really nicely,” said Zach Weakland, a CSU natural resources alumnus. “It’s one of those things where once you get going, you just ride the initial interest.”
His excitement shows as opening day nears in Windsor – a town he said will especially understand the farming aspect of the beer making.
“I truly feel like with our agriculture here on site, it really ties in with what Windsor is doing and what it was founded on,” he said.
A 2005 Windsor High School graduate, Zach Weakland said he has big hopes for what the new brewery can bring to a town that has been missing out on craft beer for years.
“I would like to become a destination spot,” he said, noting weekend-long beer tours many take across Colorado.
Some enthusiasts and curious drinkers have already heard about High Hops Brewery ahead of the grand opening, bringing with them high hopes of a new place for a cold beer.
Reaction was positive, to say the least.
“They’ve definitely created their own atmosphere here,” said Steve Marrick, a Fort Collins resident working to open his own shop, Black Bottle Brewery. “It’s definitely good for Windsor.”
“It’ll last – there’s no doubt,” echoed Adrian Murphy of Greeley.
Once the celebration of an official grand opening fades, the Weakland family will be marketing their pride and joy. They’ve already had interest in getting canned, bottled and on shelves in Colorado, and the hops they’ve grown has made its ways across the country.
But at the same time, they want the laid back atmosphere in west Windsor to continue, especially as they work to blend the perfect amount of flavors for their ever-changing lineup of brews.
“There’s no limit to beer,” Zach Weakland said. “The sky is the limit.”
They’ve definitely created their own atmosphere here. It’s definitely good for Windsor.
Owns his own brewery, Black Bottle Brewery