A decade ago, friends Tommy Thacher and Chris Fish were having a cold one and talking about possibly starting a business together. At the time, Fish was the brewmaster at Smuggler’s, while Thacher taught at the Telluride Mountain School. Both shared a love of craft beer, which ultimately led to the decision to start Telluride Brewing Co.
“We were just trying to figure out a way to stay in Telluride forever and raise our families here,” Thacher said. “It’s been a wild ride.”
On Wednesday, the local brewery will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with $5 beers at its flagship location in Lawson and the brewpub in Mountain Village.
Thacher admits the company did not have a 10-year plan when it first started, and it still doesn't. But what has kept Telluride Brewing going for all these years is dedication to the process and a lot of support from the local community, he added.
“To be able to have a business that’s thriving at 10 years old and has room to grow is a testament to what we’ve been able to create, and a huge thanks to the community that we’re in,” Thacher said. “When Fish and I were diving into a business plan and getting this rolling, it seems so long ago, but then in the blink of an eye, we’ve been around for 10 years.”
The cofounders wanted to keep Telluride Brewing a Colorado-only business, and that’s exactly what they’ve done, but Thacher explained there are still areas that could be expanded, mainly the company’s distribution footprint within the state.
“The vision has always been to stay Colorado only, and we’re still staying true to that,” he said.
Telluride Brewing has crafted 100 different beers over the years in utilizing Rocky Mountain snowmelt alongside premium malts, hops, hop terpenes and yeasts, and is one of only six breweries of its size to distribute in Colorado exclusively,
“Colorado born and raised, I love this state and see no reason to venture further, as there is still opportunity for growth here,” Fish explained. “Maintaining a small footprint allows us to keep an eye on the beer that we distribute, ensuring quality and freshness.”
When the company first started, the cofounders heard from naysayers who suggested they have an exit plan, but an alternative option was never really considered.
“We were like, ‘Yeah, why not? We can do it,’” Thacher said.
The early days included paying people with beer they hand canned, and never really knowing who might help.
“We didn’t have any money to pay anyone, so we would just give them free beers. In the winter if it snowed, no one would show up. You’re just dealing with those constant early on business struggles, working seven days a week and doing everything yourself,” he said.
Telluride Brewing currently employs around 20 people, and there is little turnover, Thacher explained, which has created more of a family environment.
“People just want a place where they can meet up with their friends and have a beer,” he said. “We feel like we’ve created that.”
Since its inception, the brewery has canned over 1.1 million beers; won five at the Great American Beer Festival, including a recent bronze award in September 2021 for Face Down Brown American Brown Ale; won three medals at the World Beer Cup; opened the Mountain Village brewpub; and introduced sustainability measures to lessen their environmental impact.
“Telluride Brewing Co fans can look forward to a winter season packed full of new and returning beers, fun-filled events, and continued sustainable growth as a local, family owned business,” according to a news release announcing the 10-year anniversary deal.