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Thursday, September 20,2012

Wild Woods Brewery adds a bit of the outdoors to beer

By Alyssa Hurst
Photo by Alyssa Hurst
Jake Evans

With craft breweries popping up at every turn, finding a unique selling point is a necessity for each new hopeful. For Jake and Erin Evans, owners of Wild Woods Brewery, nature is not only their inspiration, but also their niche.

The pair has taken nature-inspired recipes that they’ve been developing for years and turned them into the foundation for Boulder’s newest nanobrewery, which is set to open soon. In just a year, the couple has perfected recipes, learned the ropes of the brewing industry and, in April, signed a lease on a small building at 5460 Conestoga Court, near the intersection of Arapahoe Avenue and 55th Street.

“The last year has been a blur,” Jake says. “The alcohol industry is one of the most regulated, so it’s been a lot of paperwork.”

Erin Evans still maintains a full-time job as nurse, but Jake gave up his job as an engineer to help get Wild Woods off the ground. Though they were both comfortable with their jobs, they say that Wild Woods is truly a labor of love.

“It’s our American dream,” Erin says.

“We wanted to create something with our hands that is ours and we can share,” Jake adds.

Five years ago, the Evanses moved from the Midwest to Boulder for work, and fell in love with craft beer. Now, what started out as a hobby that they shared with their friends has turned into a full-scale operation.

After experiencing what Colorado had to offer in the way of craft beers, the pair took the next step and began brewing at home.

“We were literally on the stove top with pots and pans,” says Erin.

From there, they expanded with the purchase of a Sabco Brew-Magic all-grain brewing system that allowed the pair to experiment on a slightly larger scale, and begin crafting their own special recipes that would eventually become some of the featured brews offered by Wild Woods today.

After some independent study, the Evanses took the next step by enrolling in Tom Hennessy’s Brewery Immersion Course, a sort of pub school designed to teach students how to not only brew beer on a larger scale, but also how to maintain the business side of a brewery. The Evanses received hands-on training at Hennessey’s brewery, Colorado Boy.

Wild Woods Brewery only has two barrels, making it smaller than even the majority of nanobreweries, which are classified as having three or fewer barrels. Though the operation is a bit of a baby next to some of the popular microbreweries nearby, Jake Evans says this works to their advantage.

“Being a nanobrewery sets us apart,” he says. “We only have two barrels, so we are always fresh. We’ve got our six year-round beers, but we’ve also got smaller seasonal beers that we can brew and rotate in.”

While the Evanses say they enjoy Wild Woods Brewery’s small size for now, further expansion is not out of the question.

“Of course everyone wants to grow,” Erin says. “But we have no plans to can our beer at this very moment. For now, we want people to come see us here at our tasting room and perhaps a few bars and restaurants.”

The couple’s six year-round brews are all inspired by and infused with nature, the element of their product that they deem most distinctive. Wild Woods’ beers include Wildflower Pale Ale, Treeline India Pale Ale, Campfire Red Ale, Ponderosa Porter, Smores Stout and Berry Wheat Patch.

As avid hikers and general enjoyers of Boulder’s nature-centric attitude, the couple looks to the outdoors for ingredients, ideas and inspiration.

“Our best ideas come when our minds are clear,” Erin says. “We don’t want it to be forced.”

“It’s all been pretty organic,” Jake adds.

Once they identify a smell or element they want to represent through beer, they figure out what style would work best and start brewing. Through trial and error, they have produced their signature six offerings and numerous small-batch recipes.

“We get a lot of our ideas while we are out hiking,” Erin says. “I went for a hike during wildflower season and thought about infusing a beer with flowers, and that’s how we came up with Wildflower Pale Ale. It’s getting these ideas from nature and figuring out what we could pair them with and what style of beer would go well with that.”

Other than the six year-round options, the Evanses say they plan to mix in some seasonal small-batch brews. The one Erin says she is most looking forward to is Tropical Paradise Imperial IPA, a flavor combination of ginger and mango hopped with Chinook, Citra and Amarillo.

Though Wild Woods Brewery takes its own special spin on craft brews, opening a brewery of any kind in Boulder can be both a blessing and a challenge. The audience for craft brews is certainly large, but that opens up the market for certain competition.

“Boulder is such a craft brew mecca, so there has been a lot of competition, but I think everyone has their own little niche, and we certainly have ours,” Jake says.

Though the competition may appear fierce, other local breweries say that’s not the case. According to Ted Whitney, Avery Brewing Company’s “National Sales Ninja,” each addition to the scene is a welcome and exciting one.

“I think the coolest thing about the craft brewery movement is that all 2,000 of us only make up about 8 percent of the beer people are drinking. So the more this expands, the more we can get people to start expecting more out of their beer,” he says. “We don’t want to fight over the crumbs, we want the pie.”

Wild Woods Brewery is set to open as soon as a few small details come together. Right now, Erin and Jake say they are on schedule to open their tasting room and brewery as soon as Tuesday, Sept. 25, and are excited about what the opening will bring.

“We want it to feel comfortable and not like a warehouse,” Erin says. “We are brewing beer here, but we want it to be a place where people can stop by after work for a beer.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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