The best conversations happen over a glass of tasty brew. I thought there was no better way to pick the brain of Durango’s brewers than to invite them out for a pint or two. This week, I met with Chad Quinn of Steamworks Brewing Co. to get his take on what it’s like being in the craft beer industry.
How long have you been brewing beer?In the commercial industry, I’ve been brewing for about three years. As a home brewer, though, my passion began about 10 years before that.
What made you want to step up from home brewing to commercial?To be honest, it all happened by chance. I was actively pursuing my other profession, geology, and when the market slowed down in 2015, Steamworks had an assistant brewer position available. I applied, not really knowing what my future was, took the job, and here we are.
What beer recipe that you have created is the one that you’re the most proud of?When I was a home brewer, I had an idea for who I wanted to be as a brewer and I think that’s drastically different than who I am as a commercial brewer. Without the Steamworks brewing crew, my best recipe wouldn’t be what it is. It was one of my home brew recipes, but it’s drastically different now. It’s called Dubbel D, which is part of our Belgian series. It’s a Belgian style Dubbel, of course, and I’m pretty proud of it. It’s found a spot in the rotation every year since I’ve been with Steamworks. I tend to gravitate to Belgian styles. They’re malt-forward with a generally higher alcohol content, but still maintain a good balance.
What beers should someone try when they come into Steamworks?Thank you for asking me this! A lot of people don’t realize how many different styles we have on and rotate through in a year. Our Colorado Kölsch, Steam Engine Lager, and Third Eye Pale Ale are our biggest sellers, but we have tons of other brews on all the time. I mean, we have 22 different brews running through our lines right now. Try our Macho Man Russian Imperial Stout or our Spruce Goose, which are great beers for the season. The Spruce Goose is actually made with spruce tips that we harvested by hand in the San Juan National Forest and it has a really unique flavor.
What do you think is the most important ingredient in beer that people may forget about?Water. Historically, every region has different types and quality of water and they change the flavor and the process quite a bit depending on where you are. Our water is great for brewing because of it’s high mineral content. That’s one of the reasons that all of Durango’s brews are so delicious and different.
What is the biggest issue that craft beer is facing today?People feeling like craft breweries are pitted against each other. Craft breweries are a close-knit community, especially on a local level. If you just look at Durango, so many people think that we’re working against each other and there must be fierce competition or maybe even bad blood between us. We’re all on the same team and are all making products that we love. If we’re out of a certain yeast, we’ll reach out to Carver or Ska because we’re all friends and we help each other out. When one of us wins a medal at the Great American Beer Festival or the World Beer Cup, we cheer for each other. It’s a win for the whole town.
Besides brewing, what would you say is your biggest passion?For me, it’s been mountain biking. Seeing the influences in mountain biking that we have in Durango like Todd Wells, Ned Overend, or even the younger kids I get to ride with, like Quinn Simmons, is amazing. Their level of heart and skill and also how they give back to the community is a big inspiration. I want Steamworks to be a part of that, too. I am trying to create a new team with Steamworks, 2nd Ave Sports, and a few other sponsors, like Honeystinger and Yeti, where mountain biking doesn’t have to just be about racing and competition. We want it to be about community outreach as well. We want it to be like a club that people can join for free so they can get better at riding without having to invest in a trainer or a $5,000 bike. We hope to create community rides maybe once week where you can come out and ride, have fun, and maybe learn some new techniques or ride a new trail. You can get more confidence and little bit of coaching. Steamworks isn’t just about drinking beer, we’re about community involvement and this is just another way we want to give back.
Sean Moriarty has been drinking craft beer since before he was legally allowed to. He managed and bartended at Steamworks Brewing Co. from 2007-2017 and currently manages their digital marketing.