Posted in Breweries

Lose the Leash!

I hope they don’t mind, but I had to steal their slogan for the title of this Q&A. Coal Mine Ave Brewing‘s got it just right. Why reinvent the wheel?

As many of you know, I rarely visit the same brewery twice. There are just so many, and I have to make my rounds. BUT Coal Mine’s got a few things going for them and is dear to my heart. One, they are just down the street from where I live (less than a mile) in Littleton, CO. Two, they have GREAT beer. Three, they have a ligit dog park at the brewery where I can bring my Dachshund and… well… lose the leash! As a result, I’ve been known to frequent Coal Mine a few times week!

I had the pleasure to meet Manuel Baca, who brews the awesome nectar and co-owns the brewery with his wife Erica. Why don’t we ask him a few questions and let him introduce this gem of a place in his own words?

Tell us about the team. How did you guys get involved in craft beer?
Manule and Erica Baca, co-owners of Coal Mine Ave Brewing

Janelle, our taproom manager, has been with us since the start.  She has been in the industry for a while and has an affinity for traditional style lagers, but does appreciate most styles of beers. She is also a certified veterinary tech, so that’s perfect for a dog park brewery. She is also married to an award-winning brewer.

Dennis has been with us from the start as well. He started as a beer tender, but now spends more time helping me on brew days and other brewhouse duties.  e is a West Metro firefighter and has some experience homebrewing.
Most of the rest of the team has had some previous experience in the industry. They are all very positive people and work very well together. Erica is the co-owner and my wife. She handles all of the business end: Accounting, social media, reporting…
I am the head brewer and co-owner. Both Erica and I have a background in financial services. I moved into the technology side (project management of software development) while Erica obtained her series 7 and 63 licenses. We had been homebrewing for quite some time and would talk about opening our own business.


When and how did Coal Mine Ave Brewing get started?
Manuel is prepping for brew day and reviewing the Baca-Zacca IPA recipe

Erica used to go to San Diego for work training. One year, we made a long weekend of it and visited Stone. As we walked the gardens, beers in hand, Erica said “This would be perfect, if we had our dog with us”. The idea was born.

We started looking into what it would take to open a dog park brewery and took some SBA classes.
Fast forward a couple of years, Erica received word that the her division was no longer going to operate out of Denver and she was laid off. She called me excited and said, “Looks like we’re doing this!”


How do you go about creating recipes?
From left to right: Java Plex Coffee Cream Ale, Peabody NEIPA, Suburban Apeel (collab with Landlocked Ales), Coal Fire Hatch Chile Ale, and Coconut Dogger Stout

Many of the recipes were scaled up from 5 gallon recipes. I talked to other brewers about calculations, efficiencies, and hop utilization when comparing a 7-bbl system to 5 gallons. Fortunately, there are many good brewers in Colorado that have made the leap from homebrewing. Now that I’ve worked with these recipes, I usually just create them at full scale. As many of us are, I’m inspired by food. I start with an idea, then look to malts and hops that will somehow produce or enhance what I want. That creates the base, then I look to adding other ingredients (like Nutter Butters in a stout).

Any plans for the future at Coal Mine Ave Brewing?
Manuel is prepping for the the brew at Coal Mine Ave Brewing

Our vision has always been to be a great neighborhood spot. A place where people can gather and make new friends and the staff is friendly. Our plan has been to maximize the taproom first. The neighborhood is growing, and we have a unique concept.  After that we, would focus on to-go options, limited releases, etc…then we would consider easing into distribution. COVID has thrown a big wrench in that. We can’t maximize our taproom, and not being able to provide the experience of sitting at the bar is something we really miss (as do most breweries). Being shut down in March did make people more consciously aware that we have to-go options (since that’s all we could do). Now in the second shutdown, we’re just trying to make evaluations daily and adjust where we can. We have a heated patio in front, and patio heaters on the side patio. Also, just trying to release new beers frequently helps. This is where the collaborative spirit of this industry will help. Collaborations will allow us to continue releasing new things, but still be able to go through the beer, since it will be available at all the collaborating breweries.

What do you think of the craft beer scene in the area and its expansion over the past few years? 
Assistant Brewer Dennis Gould is mashing during brew day at Coal Mine Ave Brewing

It is definitely a culture. We have seen craft breweries become the new neighborhood pub, where the brewery is not simply located in a community, but a real part of it. We’re also seeing a lot of younger people that are starting families, are moving to the suburbs. Knowing this, we need to keep things interesting. We have regulars that come in and always want the same beer, but just as many come in to ask what’s new.

Talk about the dog park and why you decided to have one.
The dog I was speaking of earlier was Remus. He was 105 lb Saint/Chessie mix that looked like a little black bear. We wanted to take him everywhere with us. We later adopted our dog Tonks.  We would get home from our jobs and wanted to go have a beer somewhere, but didn’t want to again, leave dogs when they were already so happy to see us. We wanted to create a place to remedy that situation. We love dogs and we love beer, so we wanted a place where the dogs have as much fun as the people!


How have you been coping with Covid-19? 
Manule is prepping for the brew at Coal Mine Ave Brewing

That has been tricky. When we were shut down in March, I was obviously brewing less. I didn’t want to have a bunch of beer just sitting. So when we reopened, we still had 12 taps, but there wasn’t a lot backing those taps. We started kicking beers left and right, so I brewed, brewed, brewed. Now with the most recent restrictions happening in the middle of winter and outside seating only, I anticipate not brewing as much.

Anything we’ve missed?
More photos from Coal Mine Ave Brewing: