In 1892, it was a storage warehouse for incoming goods recently carried across the country by the new Rio Grande Southern Railway. In 1905, it safeguarded 1,500 boxes of apples from a raging fire that swept through the building after some boys dropped a lit cigarette into hay while peeping into a show at a nearby entertainment venue. In the 1970s, it housed the haute cuisine establishment Chez Pierre, and by the early 2000s, reporters from the Telluride Daily Planet scribbled stories of the town’s happenings within its stonewalls. Now, the historic Stronghouse, “the Stone Warehouse at the foot of Fir Street,” as one 1897 newspaper clipping described it, enters a new chapter of life, opening its doors as a public house on Sept. 21.
Stronghouse Brew Pub, in an extensively restored space carefully designed to retain its historical charm, will debut its menu of “Colorado comfort food” along with a rotating menu of craft beers brewed on-site by brewmaster Sam Enders. Enders, incorporating a diverse range of influences from farm-to-stein fresh ingredients to international beer styles, will maintain several staple brews alongside seasonal rotations, such as the current coconut porter, a nod to summer’s transition to the cold crispness of a Colorado fall.
“We’re focused on using as many local ingredients as possible,” Enders said. “Even five years ago, there weren’t a whole lot of options for local hops and malt. Now I’m getting most of my hops from a farm in Montrose, and I’m working with a maltster near Alamosa to source our malt.”
For Enders, brewing craft beer offers an intriguing marriage between modern technology and ancient ingredients, much in the same way the Stronghouse building offers an enchanting pairing of century-old stonewalls with tasteful modern touches.
"Everyone has the same ingredients," Enders said of brewing, explaining the surprising diversity of styles that can result from adjusting the processes or the ingredients. "It's a fun industry because it's a mix of mechanical aptitude, working with equipment, where things constantly break, and having that ability as well as the art of the craft. There's always something new and exciting to learn and explore."
The menu, according to executive chef Brian Young, will focus on “mountain food for mountain people,” with old-world influences such as sausages and pretzels. The house brews also feature in the menu, infusing items like a beer bread and a jalapeño beer cheese with Ender’s creations.
“We make as much of what we can in-house,” Young said, explaining the importance of creating a menu that reflected both comfort food — think beer cheese Philly cheesesteak — and health-conscious indulgences, like a barley-cured salmon on avocado toast and beet hummus. Keeping the menu affordable, with most entrees priced at $15 or less, was also a key value for management, and blue plate and bar specials will be a staple at the brewpub.
For owner Victoria Chapus, the historic building had called to her for years as she walked by and admired its stalwart architecture. Her draw to the space, combined with the influence of belonging to a family that often toasted achievements and celebrations with beers, culminated in the creation of Stronghouse Brew Pub.
“We came up with this motto, ‘Let’s beer,’” Chapus said. “It’s a celebration of people getting together, ‘beering’ someone for an achievement. It’s an invitation for people to recognize someone’s achievements. That was something I grew up with.”
Stronghouse, in its newest chapter in Telluride history, is a place she hopes will offer the chance for anybody and everybody in the community, visitors and locals alike, to celebrate, create memories, and enjoy high-quality food and drink. The team, she said, paid special attention to the building during its extensive renovation to comply with American Disability Act regulations.
“It wasn’t an afterthought,” she said. “This is a space where we want everyone to feel they can belong, celebrate and gather. It’s a place to come inside and we’re friendly, inviting and inclusive. That’s the feeling I had when I first came to Telluride.”
In addition to the warm atmosphere of the pub, Chapus carefully cultivated the building’s historic aesthetic, both in the renovations and the interior design. Stonewalls, once painted white, were painstakingly restored to their original patina. An 1880s mahogany bar, originally from a saloon in St. Louis, was brought in and topped with a 1908 brass cash register.
“I really wanted to preserve the building and keep it true to its roots, so that people in the community could enjoy it for generations to come,” Chapus said. “The way to get people in there and have it feel like their own was to create a brew house. We want this to be a gathering place, accessible to all.”