Thinking outside brewpub box pays off for Trinity Brewing

January 2, 2013
photo - Jason Yester, owner and brewmaster at Trinity Brewing Co., tests beer in the fermentation stage. (Carol Lawrence, The Gazette) Photo by
Jason Yester, owner and brewmaster at Trinity Brewing Co., tests beer in the fermentation stage. (Carol Lawrence, The Gazette) Photo by  

They told Jason Yester it wouldn’t work. A brewpub in a strip mall miles from downtown, the heart of the Colorado Springs brewing scene? Experimental beer styles that few in suburbia ever had tried? Serving something called “slow food?” No TVs for sports?

“I got criticized to the brim for every way that I set up this business,” he said. “But the one thing I couldn’t do was another cookie-cutter brewpub.”

Yester is having the last laugh. More than four years after he opened Trinity Brewing Co. on Garden of the Gods Road, he just went through a major expansion, tripling brewing capacity.

And it was only the beginning. This month will see more growth, as the brewery moves into a vacant adjacent storefront, which will allow Yester to increase his bottling capacity tenfold.

“One year of expansion is plenty. Two years is going to be trying. I’m tired,” said Yester, who has a long, scraggly beard and an aroma of hops clinging to him. “I love beer though. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m really glad that we’re as successful as we are.”

Yester was a well-known figure in local brewing long before he opened Trinity. He got into beer while studying microbiology at Colorado College for practical reasons: He could brew a six-pack for $1.05 rather than buy one for $6. He worked at Bristol Brewing Co. for 12 years before opening Trinity in August 2008. It opened with just four beers, and within two days was sold out of all but one. Clearly this was, as he said, a “pretty thirsty neighborhood.”

Trinity brews more than 40 beers a year, and also sells others’ craft beers, such as the hard-to-find Pliny the Elder. It’s become known for experimental beers and saisons in particular, often with playful names such as “Trinity Passed Stout” or “Slap Your Mammy Double IPA.”

But the biggest shortcoming has been bottling. With the capacity to bottle only 5,000 750-mililiter bottles a year, Yester turns down liquor stores eager for his beers. The expansion will allow Trinity to boost its bottling to 55,000 annually.

Yester also is bringing in 52 chardonnay oak barrels to ratchet up his casking operation, aging sours, saisons and so-called “brett beers,” made with the volatile yeast Brettanomyces that many brewers dread.

The entryway to the cask room will be an arch covered in library books because, Yester said, “walking through that archway will take you into the ‘thinking beers room’ or the ‘patient beers room.’”

Fear not, Trinity lovers. Aside from some extra patio seats and a larger kitchen, Yester promises the expansion won’t change the pub. The business model still will be based around sustainability, and people who walk or ride bikes in still will get a discount — Yester’s way of encouraging less driving.

“Our pub is always going to be the heart of this business. We’ll make some money on the bottles, but we won’t make a ton. But it will drive people to the pub. They’ll get exposed to our beers,” he said.

And no, he won’t be adding TVs. “This is a public house and it’s built to be a comfortable place to sit and enjoy a beer,” he said. “It’s the best way to enjoy a beer, to be able to think about it a little and not be distracted.”

Rappold writes about the local beer scene bi-weekly in Food.

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