Pikes Pub: Fieldhouse Brewing Co. begins distribution to Colorado Springs liquor stores

By Jakob Rodgers Updated: January 11, 2017 at 5:31 pm • Published: January 11, 2017 0

Travis Fields always envisioned walking into a liquor store and seeing his own beer waiting for him on the shelves.

Now he's determined not to let a seismic shift in the craft beer industry stop him.

His operation, Fieldhouse Brewing Co., began distributing four- and six-packs of its top-selling beer last week, joining the thin ranks of Pikes Peak region brewers that can their products for sale on liquor store shelves.

The move signals the brewery's evolution from a four-tap operation into a thriving business with a growing penchant for gluten-free brew.

"We've come a long way in the last couple years, for sure," Fields said.

It also comes as the state's brewing industry grapples with the most drastic shift to Colorado's liquor laws since 1933, when prohibition ended.

Despite longstanding opposition from craft brewers, lawmakers passed a law in 2016 that expanded beer, wine and hard liquor sales in grocery stores across the state.

Currently, only one store per chain can sell anything beyond the 3.2 percent variety. But an increasing number of grocery stores can begin selling full-strength beer and wine over the next 20 years under the compromise legislation, which was reluctantly signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper - himself a former brewpub owner.

Many craft brewers have feared the move could stunt the industry by forcing the closure of liquor stores, making it harder for smaller brewers to get their product on store shelves.

For his part, Fields remains undeterred.

He said he planned to can beer and distribute from the moment he opened Fieldhouse Brewing Co., as part of his initial business plan.

"It is what it is now, and that's what we have to get in to," Fields said.

One of the canned beers is Fieldhouse's Forman gluten-free red ale, which will be available in packs of four 12-ounce cans.

Available in six-packs will be the Sticky Paws honey wheat ale, which packs 6 pounds of Fort Collins-produced honey per barrel, and the Up-a-Creek IPA, a dry-hopped ale created with a mix of hops called the Falconer's Flight.

Fields chose the three for their popularity. The Sticky Paws and Up-a-Creek are Field's top sellers, and the gluten-free Forman often ranks in the top five or six in sales, he said.

He views starting in 2017 - rather than in a few years, when grocery store sales increase - as a way to get ahead of the state's changing liquor landscape.

"That's kind of my biggest goal - is to get Fieldhouse, as a brand, that is going to sustain through that change," he said.

Already, his brewery has matured into one of the city's more ambitious operations.

He now boasts 15 taps and a robust variety of brews, including six IPAs, an English brown, a citrusy blonde and a watermelon gummi sour. He's a couple of weeks from tapping his 300th batch.

He's learned some lessons along the way - mainly, how to tame yeast that didn't seem to perform to his standards. He recently purchased a microscope to help ensure that he's not only using healthy yeast, but also correct cell counts.

"We had no idea how much different it was going to be going from home brew to five or 10 barrels," he said, laughing.

All the while, Fieldhouse stayed true to its roots of specializing in gluten- free varieties. Field's wife inspired the concept, because she needs a gluten-free diet, and he always runs at least three gluten-free taps at a time.

They currently include the Forman and two IPAs - Chicks Dig Millets and Milletology. They're named for the millet grains he prefers over sorghum, due to the latter's off-putting aftertaste.

A gluten-free oatmeal stout is coming soon, he said.

"Our goal was to make gluten-free beer that people actually want to drink," he said.

Fields still has bigger plans for the brewery.

He wants to see it expand - possibly by purchasing an off-site production facility for his flagship beers, opening up space at his downtown tap room for brewing of more eclectic and experimental brews.

That's a dream that will have to wait.

It all depends on how long those cans stay on store shelves.

"The goal is just to make Fieldhouse as good as it can be, and make ourselves a staple down here," he said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

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