By Brady Smith
Nuzzled away in Greeley’s industrial area and surrounded by rusted train tracks and plumes of black smog sifting out of tall smokestacks is the humble home of Crabtree Brewery.
Crabtree has created a name for themselves not only as Greeley’s one and only microbrewery, but also as a hot spot for live music, food, and fun. Almost mimicking the relationship between Greeley and Fort Collins, Crabtree has been the younger sibling to its powerhouse relatives New Belgium and Odell for its entire life span of five years. But Crabtree has not only started to make a stand as a unique and fun brewery, they have also started to take the steps that make them more than a silhouette in front of the other powerhouse Colorado microbreweries.
Jeff Crabtree doesn’t consider his brewery to be five years old. When he started the brewery in 2006, Jeff had already become part of the corporate American lifestyle, working from eight to five Monday through Friday. Business started slow for Jeff.
“Other breweries should be able to do what I have done in five years in three years.”
Not being able to commit all of his time to the brewery made him nothing more than a weekend warrior. When Jeff finally made the decision to commit all of his time to the brewery, not only did business start to flow more smoothly, but Jeff’s creativity made a bellowing appearance.
Although Jeff may be sitting in a huge shadow, there is an unspoken camaraderie between brewers big and small in Northern Colorado.
“There is an unmentioned respect between all of us. Left Hand and Avery brewing have both helped me out, and I would do the same for all the other breweries.”
This respect has opened new doors for Jeff and other small breweries to be free to do what they want. Funkwerks Brewing out of Fort Collins, for instance, has the opportunity to focus on exclusivity brewing several styles of saisons, while Crabtree is allowed to try unique flavors and styles that interest them.
Cask beers have become a huge hit, and Jeff is having fun with the infinite possibilities that the oak barrels give him.
“I’m trying a lot of different things. I’m not even quite sure what’s in this barrel,” he tells me as we walk past the stacks of smoky wooden barrels.
Unique beer and a unique environ-ment give Crabtree its edge in the growing market of craft beers.
“Brewing is an art form, and we support all forms of art.”
Music, painting, and craft beer are all a part of Crabtree brewing, and if Jeff is anything more than a brewer, he is a strong supporter of local arts. Providing a place for beer enthusiasts and home brewers to come and talk as well as get wholesale prices on brewing supplies and throwing family-friendly gatherings with live music, food, and (of course) beer are just some of the things Jeff does to get the community excited about craft beer.
Jeff still feels that there is more to learn, but he’s excited to see where the brewing revolution is headed. Capitalism pits man against man in a fight for superiority, but brewing subscribes to a much more beneficial style of competition. Standing out is still important and competition is still high, but as long as Jeff holds onto his fervor and unique brewery experience, Northern Colorado’s craft beer scene will become more and more unique and influential.
Find out more about Crabtree Brewery at www.crabtreebrewing.com.