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The Old Colorado Brewing Company, Wellington’s first brewery, opened its doors in February. Brandon Neckel co-owns the brewery with his wife, Tara, and brews with the help of Dan McCue.
Since the process of brewing has been largely unchanged since its inception, the Neckels and McCue strive to create unique beers by crafting new recipes and using standard ingredients in different ways.
Brandon Neckel already has a leg up on the competition in both of these areas. His grandfather opened one of the first microbreweries in Colorado, back in 1989. However, it went out of business in 2002.
“He was a German brewmaster,” said Neckel. “He came over here to the U.S., did his schooling and started a brewery. He wanted to live the American dream.”
Neckel said he spent much of his childhood around the brewery. He helped his grandfather clean and sweep the floors before he was old enough to learn how to brew. Eventually, this childhood curiosity led to Neckel experimenting with his grandfather’s recipes.
“I’ve been brewing for about 10 years,” said Neckel. “I’ve been doing batches here and there, seeing what kind of recipes my grandpa had that I liked to brew.”
Neckel and McCue begin the brewing process by selecting and milling malted barley with other grains. Then, the grains are steeped in simmering water. When done correctly, the water activates enzymes in the malt, which convert the starches into sugars.
“After an hour of steeping the malt, called the mash, the sugary water, which we call wort, is drained into the boil kettle,” said Neckel and McCue. “Hot water is poured over the mash as it drains out of the bottom. This allows for full extraction of the sugars.”
After the wort has been drained from the kettle, it’s boiled in order to concentrate the sugars and sterilize the solution. Neckel and McCue also take this opportunity to extract different flavors from the hops.
“Boiling the hops longer brings out the bitter notes, while boiling them for a short amount of time leaves only the floral notes in the beer,” said Neckel and McCue.
The brewers also use a variety of grains, which allows then to create different types of beers.
“For instance, an IPA is a light-colored beer that’s very hoppy and generally brewed with 100 percent malted barley,” Neckel and McCue said. “Whereas wheat beers are more simple—just being brewed with a significant portion of raw wheat grains, wheat malt or flaked wheat.”
The Old Colorado Brewing Co. currently has seven different beers available on tap, including TrouVoss II, an extra-pale ale; CornAleous, an American light ale; Sevens IPA; Oatmeal Brown; RyeLiner Weisse, a sour-mash, rye-based beer; a porter; and a Belgian pale ale.
Neckel calls TrouVoss II and CornAleous “easy-drinking” beers. He said the Sevens IPA is “not too bitter, but definitely hop-forward,” while the Oatmeal Brown is a sweet, chocolatey and heavier beer. Neckel described the RyeLiner Weisse as very tart with lactic acidity, but simultaneously fresh and young.
The Old Colorado Brewing Co., 8121 First St., is open Tuesday through Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 2 to 9 p.m.