If you build it, they will come. That was the spirit behind Casey Brewing and Blending’s location in the mountain town of Glenwood Springs, CO – far away from the heavily populated Front Range. A place to attract people from all around the Rockies for great beer, but also a place to take in the wonder and beauty of the mountain town. When the brewery first began hosting monthly releases back in July 2014, the events had a relaxed, “show up whenever” atmosphere, but word quickly spread throughout the craft beer community and so began the meteoric rise of Troy Casey and his brewery.
Before long, droves of people started showing up on Casey’s doorstep for his monthly releases. In just a few months time, Casey Brewing & Blending had become a destination brewery, resulting in many making the pilgrimage from neighboring states, with some even coming from across the country.
Unfortunately, the demand for his beers had reached such heights that the tactics of making the 3+ hour drive from Denver to bring bottles home was getting more and more extreme each month. Eventually Casey reached a threshold that was no longer sustainable for the brewery. People were arriving several hours early only to find out some beers had already sold out due to the overwhelming, overnight crowd. Something had to change to help mitigate disappointing customers, and reduce the stress level being placed on Casey and his staff.
For the October ’15 release, Casey tested a new ticketing system through the website brownpapertickets.com. In order to purchase to-go bottles on release day, customers were asked to pre-purchase a $20 ticket online. The ticket offered the opportunity to purchase up to a full allotment of bottles available during that particular release. 100% of the proceeds of the ticket sales were donated to a local charity. Anyone purchasing a ticket, but not showing up to the release, would be banned from the next month’s release. This trial run seems to have been the perfect recipe to appease the masses, as well as Casey’s surrounding neighbors.
For some, this change saves money on the necessary hotel room to beat the ever-growing early crowd. For others, it will help avoid hypothermia and frostbite from overnight camping in the coming cold Winter months. But for everyone, it provides the luxury of arriving whenever is most convenient during the 11AM – 3PM pickup window. Your commute to Glenwood Springs no longer requires breaking traffic laws to be first in line, but rather allows you to be as leisurely as the gentle leaf peepers on I-70.
Upon our arrival at the brewery, 30 minutes after opening, we were surprised to only see a single person in line purchasing bottles, while over at the tasting room bar, there was no one clamoring for a pour. Instead, people were able to sit and enjoy their time without the threat of claustrophobia setting in. It was obvious that people had taken their hours of waiting in line and converted them to sleeping in, getting a warm breakfast or even enjoying a morning hike.
Outside, people were enjoying a beautiful fall day with friendly games of cornhole and giant Jenga, two games that had unfortunately been collecting dust at the brewery for the past several months. This relaxed vibe continued throughout the day as people came and went as they pleased, essentially spreading the crowd out across the entire afternoon.
The event definitely had the feel of the early Casey releases, back in 2014. Only a handful of tickets remained the day of the release, which were quickly sold to the few that had lined up prior to the doors opening. The only instance where a line developed was just before the pick up window for bottles expired at 3:00 PM.
The important take away for Casey Brewing & Blending is that the ticketing system is here to stay, as this release proved to be a complete success. If demand continues to skyrocket further tweaking may be needed, such as a lottery system, but for right now, the current system feels right. The thing to keep in mind is they are trying their hardest to make everyone happy. Given the limited amount of beer they produce and that it’s very much a small, family run brewery, this a very difficult problem to solve and may even be insolvable.
The real winner of the day was the charity that received a donation from Casey thanks to the new ticketing program. All of the proceeds went to Aspen Challenge, a non-profit dedicated to providing recreational, educational and cultural experience to individuals faced with cognitive or physical challenges. This act of helping a good cause should have an incredibly sobering effect on us all as we selfishly indulge in our beer nerd habits of gimme, gimme, gimme. Each month, 100% of online ticket proceeds will be given to a different local charity.
Enough with the editorial talk and let’s talk beer! The Tasting with the Blender session commenced immediately after the bottle sales were completed. This is where Casey pours samples of a beer “in progress” for everyone to try. This month’s showcase was the Elephant Heart Plum Casey Family Preserves, which had only been on fruit for a handful of days. The beer featured a beautifully pink color and tasted like sinking your teeth into a plum, absolutely delicious. According to the Blender, the plum inherently has an acidic tartness which was a concern, but an overpowering sourness was not exhibited, so let’s get excited for this upcoming release.
Stay tuned on release details on the Elephant Heart Plum Casey Family Preserves and further chill Casey releases. The November release has been set for Saturday 11/7. Get excited and we’ll see you there!
By: Brian McKenzie