AURORA | They grow up so fast.
That’s what some people are saying about Dry Dock Brewing Company this September as the city’s microbrew pioneers officially open a new tasting room alongside their hulking new canning facility on Tower Rd. in northeast Aurora.
“It’s great to see these guys growing,” French Fowler, a frequent Dry Dock patron, said. “They definitely deserve it.”
Slotted to officially open to the public Sept. 12, the 2,000 sq. ft. room accommodates up to 80 patrons, boasts four taps, merchandise and, keeping in tradition with their original location on East Hampden Avenuen and South Chambers Road, a popcorn machine.
The new tasting location and adjacent 30,000 sq. ft. canning facility are the brainchildren of Dry Dock Owner Kevin DeLange, who has gone from Aurora’s proverbial microbrew rumrunner when he opened the brewery 10 years ago, to a beer baron in the city. With the help of a few Great American Beer Festival medals, DeLange and the Dry Dock team have accrued a devout following during their decade of business in Aurora, the public demand often leaving them over-capacity in number of both kettles and barstools.
“This new facility was more opportunity, we could have just stayed with our original brewery,” DeLange said of the space that has increased their capacity by over 70 percent. “It was a big decision and we talked to other brewery owners as part of considering whether or not to open it, but we knew we had so much pent up demand and we’ve been turning clients away for years.”
Even with the addition of the canning center, a $4 million investment expected to crank out approximately 18,000 barrels this year, the brewers at Dry Dock have had to continue to turn away distributors interested in their product simply to maintain their current distribution area along the Front Range as well as into Grand Junction and Steamboat. One of their greatest struggles has been finding a way to counter the demand for the suds that helped put them on the map, their apricot blonde, which most recently was awarded the silver medal in the fruit beer category at the 2014 World Beer Cup. DeLange and his team tried to produce 12 packs of solely the award-winning beer this summer, but had to sunset the project shortly after it began because demand was so high.
Given the colossal demand for their goods and cult-like following within the city, DeLange is nervous that the tasting room will be inundated upon first opening its doors. Up until a soft opening last week, the company has refrained from any sort of social media hype or traditional publicity on the new spot.
“We’re really, really concerned that we won’t be able to accommodate people in the first month,” DeLange said. “If it’s too crowded, we’ll have to tell them to come back another time, which is never fun.”
The devotion Dry Dock gets from customers comes in part from it being the first microbrewery in a city that was notoriously devoid of watering holes, but also from getting into the business right before the industry’s meteoric rise within Colorado and the entire U.S. The number of American microbreweries has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, with the addition of 49 in Colorado alone from 2011 to 2013, according to the Brewer’s Association. The state also ranks fourth in the country of number of breweries per capita, with nearly five breweries per 100,000 over-21-year-old adults.
Given the proliferation of the industry, DeLange pointed out that help from older companies ingrained in the beer scene is key in getting a new brewery off the ground, something he said he experienced and is hoping to pay forward here in Aurora.
“When we opened up we got a lot of help from old schoolers like Odell’s and Great Divide and they still help us with questions and all of the little things that come up,” DeLange said. “At the same time I’m happy to answer questions for Nathan (Flatland, owner of Mu Brewery) and Scott (Procop, co-owner of Coda Brewing Company), who have both been customers of ours for years.”
Although, breweries continue to pop up across the city, state and country, DeLange said that the market has yet to get supersaturated and that there is still opportunity for growth.
“Aurora is such a big city, there’s definitely room for more,” he said.