Those rumors you’ve been hearing about big changes coming at Smiling Toad Brewing Co.? True. Owner Biff Morehead confirmed last week that the former “tiniest” brewery in Colorado Springs is poised to leap to an even roomier lily pad, off South 21st St. in Old Colorado City.

Demolition already has begun at the new location on Sheldon Avenue, formerly Thirsty’s bar and night club.

“Not many treasures found at the new place, still we’re gonna polish it up,” said Morehead in an email last Thursday. “Plans should be submitted today for approval and then the rebuild will start.”

Morehead said he hopes to be out of his current location, off South 8th Street, and open for business in the new digs by early December.

Time for Bines & Brews

Seasonal brews flavored with fresh produce are a big thing year-round, but the harvest that means the mostest for beer-lovers at large happens once a year, right about now.

We are, of course, talking about hops, whose harvest season runs from late August through September.

The window for front-end creativity using the humulus lupulus flower begins to close as soon as the hops are chopped or separated from the bines. Get those buds into a boil within 24 hours and you’ve got a “wet hop” brew. Wait a week, and the happy nuggets are “dry hops,” which is the version found in most beers.

For seven days after they’ve been plucked, however, you’ve got the makins’ for a “fresh hop” beer, and that’s the challenge for the breweries competing, and pouring, at this month’s annual celebration of the style at Limbach Park in Monument. This year's date is Sept. 15.

Bines & Brews was founded in 2014 by Rick Squires, who supplies participating breweries with fresh bines from his organic hops farm in Monument, The Twisted Bine. Brewers then create a special beer, for sampling and assessment, at the fest.

A “Top Hop Award” goes to the brewery that makes the best fresh hop beer, as determined by certified beer judges who also lend their tasting skills at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival. The winner gets to display the traveling trophy at their brewery until next year’s competition.

“These brewers look at the trophy sort like the Stanley Cup of fresh hop beers,” said Squires, whose fest is a fundraiser for the city’s Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce. “This also is the only fresh hop beer festival in southern Colorado.”

Previous winners who will be competing again this year are the Springs’ Storybook Brewing Co., 38 State from Littleton and Monument’s Pikes Peak Brewing Co., which has nabbed the award twice and is the defending champion.

Prizes also will be awarded to the best homebrew and a “People’s Choice” winner.

“Everyone who attends, when they come in they get a token and put it in the bucket of the brewer they think made the best fresh hop ale,” said Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce event planner Laura Easley. “They also get a nice real glass commemorative tasting glass to take home with them.”

In addition to the 13 beer brewers pouring their special fresh hop beers as well as flagships, the fest will have representatives from the Springs’ Lee Spirits Co. and 3 Hundred Days of Shine, and Ice Cave Cider House in Monument.

Bines & Brews is 1-5 p.m. Sept. 15 at Limbach Park, 151 Front St. in Monument. Tickets are $25, $10 for designated drivers, with sales capped at 350.

“We want it to be an upscale, adult atmosphere,” said Easley.

For info or to register:

“Cheers to Beers”

Enjoy a beer and a history lesson about beer in Colorado — from its economic and social role during Gold Rush times to the modern craft brewing boom — at a preview screening of the season six premiere episode of Rocky Mountain PBS’s “Colorado Experience: Cheers to Beers,” 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade Ave. The screening is free to attend, but reservations are required due to limited capacity. Register at

“Colorado Experience: Cheers to Beers” premieres on Rocky Mountain PBS, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27. Learn more at


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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