It’s Wednesday at the Dolores River Brewery and that can only mean one thing for owner/brewmaster Mark Youngquist — it’s time to make beer.
Brew days are filled with the smell of malted barley, long hours and hard work, but Youngquist wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was always my dream to own my own place,” Youngquist said, while standing in the brew room between copper kettles and stainless steel tanks.
Ten years ago this week, Youngquist opened the doors of his brewery restaurant and since then, the brewery has become a favorite local spot and one that travelers seek out.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s work I enjoy,” Youngquist said.
The process of making beer is a lot of science and mechanics, explained Youngquist, and it also requires a bit of faith.
Youngquist has brewed beer for 26 years and helped establish some of the first and biggest breweries in the country.
He helped found Rock Bottom Brewery in Portland, Oregon and Boulder Brewery.
As Youngquist brewed a batch of beer, he carefully checked gauges, dials and temperatures, while watching a glowing gold liquid as it progressed from the mash tank to a copper kettle.
“That’s wort,” he said, pointing to the gold liquid.
This batch will be pale ale.
“That is one of our favorites. pale ale and ESB,” he said.
Enzymes turn the starches in the malted barley into sugar. Hops are added to the wort and then yeast. The beer then ferments. The length of time depends on the beer.
“It’s kind of a magical process really,” Youngquist said.
Fermenting on Wednesday was the first batch of Vienna lager that Youngquist has made at the brewery.
“I just got the opportunity to get a German malt, so I had to try it,” he said.
The newest batch of beer brewed by Youngquist is a barley wine called Old Bumble. It took about 4 1/2 months from start to completion.
“It has a complex taste. Complexity in beer takes time,” Youngquist said. “There is a floral taste, liquorice and plums at the end.”
But this beer comes with a warning.
“It sneaks up on you, be careful,” Meghan Stout warns patrons.
The beer has such a high alcohol content, it is served in a wine glass, not the typical pint.
Stout has worked at the brewery for six years.
“It’s like a family to work here,” she said. “And I enjoy getting to know the customers so well.”
Youngquist says he enjoys watching his hand-made beer in the hands of others.
“My favorite part is watching people enjoy the beer,” Youngquist said.
The brewery is also well known for its specialty beers, a favorite last year was the Black Goat, a lager that Youngquist plans to make again this year.
“It was a local favorite. I think the mystique of the black goat helped that process,” Youngquist said.
Another favorite at the brewery is the pizzas and salad. A wood-fired, brick oven and fresh ingredients are the key to success, said Youngquist.
Buying local is another way Youngquist does business. The salads at the brewery, for example, are mostly bought from local growers.
“It’s a lot easier now to get local ingredients,” Youngquist said. “All the farmers are friends and it’s nice to know we are supporting our friends.”