An hour’s drive northeast of Denver, the Rocky Mountains fade into the background like a distant memory. The crisp, snow-capped peaks are replaced by rolling cow pastures.
In the middle of that farmland is Weld County, Colorado. In the middle of Weld County is Greeley. The unassuming little town has a population of little more than 100,000 people. It exists by the grace of farming and manufacturing. It is safe to say that Greeley is not what most people would consider a tourist destination … unless you’re a craft beer enthusiast.
Greeley is also home to, by some accounts, one of the best breweries in the United States right now—WeldWerks Brewing Company.
If you’ve never heard of WeldWerks Brewing, here is an abridged history: In 2008, Neil Fisher moved from North Carolina to Greeley. In 2010, he started homebrewing in his garage, where he met Colin Jones and a host of other guys who would come over to help brew, but mostly drink and watch sports. In 2015, after some noteworthy accolades in homebrewing competitions, Fisher and Jones opened WeldWerks. Three years later, they’re shaping the craft brewing landscape.
“We want to be that brewery that’s taking our industry, not just in Colorado, but in the country, to the next place,” Fisher, co-founder and head brewer, said of their focus on the future and pushing the limits on styles. “I think what’s next is, what can we bring you guys that’s new and different and innovative?”
For this reason, it’s hard to pinpoint if WeldWerks has a flagship beer. Their hefeweizen is the only beer left from their original lineup—and only as a show of respect because it won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival, noted Fisher.
Beyond that, the GABF gold-winning Medianoche barrel-aged stout and the fan-favorite Juicy Bits New England-style IPA have dedicated tanks. Everything else is a rotation, seasonal, or a one-off. In fact, to keep pushing the limits on style, Fisher and company have an ambitious plan to brew 100 new recipes in 2018.
“Brand new beers we’ve never released—hitting the market, hitting the taproom. That’s in addition to the other stuff we’re going to keep bringing in, like Juicy Bits and all the variants we’ve released in the past.”
Think about the magnitude of that plan for just a moment. Fisher estimated that this means in 2018 they will brew between 400 and 600 beers. For this, they moved 100 percent of their operations back to the Greeley facility—they were contract brewing some of their year-rounds, like the hefeweizen, at Sleeping Giant in Denver—and significantly increased their in-house production capacity.
“I think it’s easy for us to say we’re going to keep making a lot of New England-style IPAs and a lot of stouts, which we will,” Fisher said, “but (increasing production capacity) frees us up to do some lagers, some blonde stouts … we’ve got some other fruity beers that aren’t necessary IPAs or sours.”
Fisher suggested that WeldWerks’ ability to stand out as a new brewery was because the founders had no brewing industry experience, so they didn’t know what rules they were supposed to play by.
“We didn’t follow a formula of brewing traditional styles,” he said. “And we kind of joke about it: instead of thinking outside the box, it’s just thinking without a box.”
In fact, they only recently brought their first industry professional into the WeldWerks family—consequently, when they cut ties with Sleeping Giant, they left with a lead brewer. According to Fisher, it was time to do that. He recognized that trying to do everything between Jones and himself was not sustainable for the long haul.
“If it rested solely on the shoulders of Colin or myself, or some of the other staff members who have been here longer, we’d probably burn out,” Fisher said. “And I think we’ve reached burnout points at times.”
But now, Fisher stressed, “We hired people way more capable than us to do way more than we can do on our own.”
And that is actually WeldWerks’ No. 1 tenet—people come first. The brewery owners have invested in their employees through significant wage increases and full healthcare options.
Their top three priorities are rounded out by community investment—they give to several charitable organizations—and making great beer. When Fisher talks, he is clearly passionate about Greeley, supporting its residents, and seeing its economy grow.
“We get to do number one and number two because we do number three,” Fisher said.
WeldWerks celebrated their third anniversary March 23-25. On the opening day of their celebration weekend it was also announced that they won USA Today Sports’ Craft Brew Bracket, beating out modern legends like Russian River Brewing.