August 14, 2013
Biff Morehead knew it would be a lot of work.
A home brewer whose most recent day job was as a greeter at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, in May he made the leap into commercial brewing, buying Kevin Baity Kraft Beers from his friend Kevin Baity, renaming it Smiling Toad Brewing Co.
He's still struggling to get a 3-barrel system up and running, but as the smallest brewery in Colorado Springs, the existing half-barrel system is enough to keep the toad and customers smiling.
"(Commercial) brewing is a lot more work than making it at home," he said. "I'm not really the engineer I thought I was."
It's not easy being green.
But it sure is fun.
"It's the hardest fun I ever had," said Morehead, a jolly man whose a bushy moustache screams "beer."
Baity's brew pub was one of the region's first nano-breweries when it opened on East Bijou Street in 2011. And it definitely is "nano," with just four tables. More than 15 customers would make it feel crowded.
Morehead's dream has always been to have his own brewery. But his second dream was to have a friend with a brewery, so he began spending a lot of time at Baity's pub, learning about different styles and how to make them at home.
Last winter, Baity mentioned he was looking to sell the brewery, unable to keep running it while working another job, Morehead said. Attempts to reach Baity for this column were unsuccessful.
Around that time, Morehead's wife Patti asked him what he wanted for Christmas.
"A brewery," he said.
"I was as enthused as he was about it," she recalled.
So why "Smiling Toad?"
So many Colorado breweries are named after mountains or rivers, he wanted something to set it apart. He thought of how English pubs are often named after animals, and "Smiling Toad" it became.
Little has changed since the pub changed hands. There are still no televisions, no jukebox, no food other pretzels. Baity's Bella Lavender is still their best-seller, though the other beers are recipes by Morehead and assistant Fred Davis.
Also on tap last week were Basil Honey ale, Toad Lick IPA, Uptail Scotch Ale and Apricot Sour. Morehead rotates a new beer in each week.
Morehead and Davis make the beer. Patti Morehead does the books. And keeps at her day job as an insurance agent.
"Somebody has to pay the mortgage and we aren't there yet," she said.
Morehead said he has no plans to change the atmosphere, get into bottling or expand. He likes the cozy setting, conducive to conversations and not distractions.
"I like the smallness of it. I like the people who come around. It's a local brewery and I like our community out here," he said. "We're the smallest (brewery), so consequently we have to be the friendliest."