SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Erik Maxson has a clear vision for his artwork: “It’s simple and elegant. It can come from the simplest of things. It’s creating something larger than the sum of its parts.”
Though his work frequently is called a masterpiece, Maxson isn’t talking about painting, drawing or sculpting. He’s talking about brewing craft beer.
And after 16 years in the industry, the former Carver Brewing Co. head brewer is about to have a blank canvas on which to blend his proverbial paints: his own brand-new brewpub.
Simple is Maxson’s mantra. Simple ingredients. Simple name: BReW Pub & Kitchen.
“I wanted it to tell people what we were doing and what we were about. That way there’s hopefully not a lot of mystery,” he said.
Little mystery will shroud Maxson’s beer, either, he said. Each beer will highlight one of the main ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. The beer highlighting water will be a “session beer” and low in alcohol content. A lager or Scottish ale will highlight the malt.
“This will allow us to play around with experimental styles and less prominent styles. That way we can try to highlight the fact that it’s not all about the booze.” Maxson said. “I approach making beer from the standpoint of being honest. If I make a hoppy beer, I want to make sure it highlights the hops.”
The pub won’t just serve Maxson’s beer, though. He plans on working with brewers throughout the state to carry their beers.
“Having been in this game for a long time, I’ve made connections with other breweries. I think it’s a shame that in a community of avid beer fans, we don’t get the opportunity to experience those beers more often,” he said.
The beers Maxson will feature typically can be found in liquor stores, so beer fans may already have tasted them, but that doesn’t exactly fall under Maxson’s idea of experience.
He’s all about draft beer and its freshness.
“For me – the way I’ve made beer and been making beer – draft is really the way I would like beer to be presented and enjoyed,” he said.
That isn’t to say Maxson is a beer snob. One is just as likely to find him drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon as an Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA.
As he puts it, every beer has a time and place.
With Maxson’s brewpub, Durango’s population of about 17,000 will have five breweries.
Other industries would worry about new competition, but the local breweries say they welcome more craft beer.
“It certainly may draw people any given night that might want to grab beer and have some food, but there’s no real worry that it’s going to negatively affect our business,” said Damon Scott, lead brewer at Durango Brewing Co. “Typically, small brewers have the attitude that the more people who are enjoying craft beer – even at what would traditionally be a competitor establishment – is good for the industry overall.”
Maxson could succeed at stealing some customers, not only because of his unique take on brewing but also with the brewpub’s location and views.
The pub is at 117 W. College Drive in the building containing 6th Street Hair Salon & Day Spa, Durango Smoke Shop and RE/MAX. The front of the pub features a garage door that opens up to the sidewalk and an unobstructed view of Smelter Mountain.
The atmosphere of the pub will reflect its surroundings: bright and open, Maxson said.
The building is still under renovation, but once the fermenters and serving tanks arrive, it will be only about three to four weeks until the pub is open.
Maxson said the pub should open in mid-December, which can’t come fast enough.
He brewed his last batch of beer in March and is eager to put the hammers and scaffolds away and get back to his craft.
Maxson isn’t the only one excited for the brew to start flowing.
“I think it’s great we’re going to have another brewpub. (Maxson) is a great brewer,” said Steamworks Brewing Co. co-founder Kris Oyler. “I’m excited for him to open.”