Updated: December 11, 2013 at 11:12 am
In the mid-1990s, said Keith Altemose, he foresaw the future of the beer industry.
Someday, he predicted, every small town would have its own brewery, like the old days in America, before the industry became dominated by a handful of mass-produced, cheap brands.
"My wife remembers 17 years ago me stating we would one day own a small brewery, where we'd service the local community," said Altemose, 42.
It took 17 years, but Altemose now is satisfied the beer landscape has reached that point. So last month he opened Nano 108 Brewing Co. on Waynoka Road off Powers Boulevard.
"Today the market has come to those beers, and today common people are buying $12 bottles and walking past me in the liquor store. Twenty years I've been waiting for people to buy barley wines and walk out the door like that," he said.
And he's hoping Colorado Springs is ready for his unique take on brewing.
While other breweries have flagship beers, which are available year-round, Nano 108 offers a rotating selection of beers timed to the seasons.
While other breweries name their beers to help customers associate with a particular brew, Nano 108 does not. Among the beers on tap last week were names such as Vienna Lager, Belgian Witbier and Robust Porter.
Altemose spent decades in the restaurant business, opening and managing chain restaurants. But he also has been a homebrewer for decades and fell in love with the science and history of beer. He bided his time, the brewery idea always in the back of his mind, waiting for the moment when he felt he could feed his family in the business.
So why go against the grain and not offer flagship beers? Nearly every craft brewery makes seasonals while also offering staple beers people recognize to draw customers to the bar and liquor store shelf.
Altemose wants to encourage beer discovery. He wants people to learn the story behind each beer and the history of the beer style. Sure, maybe someone comes in for the double India pale ale, but it's gone. He or his servers will encourage them to try something else. "Let's deconstruct what you would normally drink," he might tell the customer.
I won't bother telling you about the beers I tasted on my visit because, Altemose said, "by the time they see (this column) on Wednesday and come in on Friday, I'll have six new beers on tap."
Though they won't be the same brews, there will be similarities as the season progresses. He'll always have a light beer and a dark beer, as well as something hoppy such as an IPA. The recipe will be tweaked to reflect the season. In winter, the IPA will be wet-hopped to reflect the fall harvest. Summer will be for light beers, with no robust porter in sight. He hopes to brew 100 different beers a year.
So far, it's worked. Business has been so great, he feared running out of beer. On my visit, the IPA was gone, though the Organic Pale Ale was a welcome replacement. It's probably gone by now, too.
Altemose knows it's a new concept, and he's prepared to bend to the will of customers if he hears complaints.
"It's the wild West and it's risky. I built in a backup. I'm prepared to say, 'My robust porter or my IPA are my flagships.' ''
The brewery has no kitchen, with food provided by mobile trucks outside. Altemose plans to begin canning and bottling next year and hopes to have his constantly rotating selections in a few liquor stores. I question how successful that will be, since only the biggest beer geeks tend to buy a six-pack of something they've never tried or heard of, but I applaud the effort.
For his part, Altemose acknowledged he feels a mix of nervousness and excitement.
"There are still nerves daily, that this is how I have to feed my family in the future, but with the support of customers, I don't have any doubts it will work," he said.