Words and Photos: Seth Braverman
You may have seen the name Aly Hartwig over the past month and you have certainly seen press for the Colorado Springs Craft Week, a week-long event that hopes to bolster the burgeoning craft movement in Colorado Springs and beyond. If you’re not yet familiar with her name, don’t worry — you will be. Hartwig’s love for craft beer and the community she watched it create led her to start the Springs’ first-ever, very own Craft Week.
When not attending meetings or writing emails in preparation for the week of events, Hartwig can be found at Pikes Peak Brewing Company where she works as an assistant brewer. Originally from Grand Island, Nebraska, Hartwig moved to the Springs by way of Fort Collins a couple years back in search of work. After a stint pouring beers at Brewer’s Republic — one of the best spots in town to grab a pint of craft beer — she landed a job brewing at Pikes Peak in Monument. Her passion for both the beer industry and for the craft culture formed around the same time.
Having found that small-town Nebraska feel in the craft beer industry, Aly found a vocation she could call home.
Just months after her 21st birthday, Hartwig attended a beer festival where she was impressed by the collaborative spirit and instant rapport the craft beer world cultivated. For example, when she told employees at the Avery Brewing booth that their Hog Heaven — a dry-hopped, barleywine-style ale — was one of her favorite beers, they not only dipped into their personal cache to pour her a glass, but the man who poured it for her had personally helped make the beer. He ended up giving her his brewer pass and she was able to experience the festival as a brewer. Hartwig had gone to the festival with a love for craft beer and left with an understanding and appreciation for the community that creates it. Having found that small-town Nebraska feel in the craft beer industry, Hartwig found a vocation she could call home.
I met up with Hartwig at Pikes Peak Brewing Company. As she hauled large hoses through the heart of the brewery, hooking and unhooking their snaking ends into giant tanks, she explained to me that 80 percent of brewing is simply cleaning up. I did my best not to get in the way as we discussed beer’s role in society, the life of a female brewer, and how Craft Week came to be.
What role do breweries and beer play in a society?
AH: It’s easy to run into someone at a bar and be buying a pint and make that relationship with someone. I think in Colorado Springs in particular it plays a more important role than people think because we’re all coming from these very different backgrounds, and it brings all those people together. It’s a non-partisan product. I think that outdoor recreation and craft beer are the two things that can bring Colorado Springs together.
Probably the biggest impact as a brewery is how many people they employ and how many people they’re giving a living to. And I definitely see an impact in the economy from this small business because people talk about how restaurants have an awful chance of surviving, but how many breweries close? It doesn’t happen very often.
And what about craft products in general, be they beer, whiskey or coffee?
It’s a luxury. It’s our modern-day luxury. It’s not spices from India anymore.
AH: Being able to put that $6-10 down on a really great product makes you feel like you're rich for that second you’re consuming it, because it is a rich product. It’s a luxury. It’s our modern-day luxury. It’s not spices from India anymore. And so these crafted alcohol products are making us more responsible. It’s not about high quantity anymore, it’s about high quality.
Does Pikes Peak Brewing Company consider itself a Monument brewery or a Colorado Springs brewery?
AH: Pikes Peak thinks of itself as a neighborhood brewery. We don’t really define that neighborhood just because a lot of the people that come in are thought of, literally, as our next-door neighbors because we do create this community among the people that come in and support us.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a brewery in the Springs?
AH: The advantages are it’s easier to shine. When it comes down to it, there are less [sic] breweries in Colorado Springs, and so in order to stand out and make a name for yourself, it’s easier. In Fort Collins it was hard to find your place. Here you can find your place. You can create your own niche because it hasn’t been created here yet. But to have anyone out of town take you seriously, it’s definitely harder, because Colorado Springs does have this reputation of being overlooked. I don’t know if the reputation we thought we had in the past is still there, but I do know we’re overlooked.
It seems like brewing has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. What advice would you give gals out there interested in becoming brewers?
And you have to volunteer as much as possible and work for free doing what you love so you can eventually get paid to do what you love.
AH: It’s less a question of gender and more a question of, “are you willing to do what it takes to get where you want in your career?” And maybe it’s that women have never seen brewing as what they want their career to be before, and as more and more women get into the industry it makes brewing appear more as an accessible career. But no matter what, it’s hard work and you have to be willing to commit. And if you create relationships in this industry then you have to utilize them. And you have to volunteer as much as possible and work for free doing what you love so you can eventually get paid to do what you love.
Where did the idea for a Colorado Springs Craft Week come from?
AH: I sat down in December of 2012 and wrote a list of everything that Colorado Springs was missing in the craft beer community. I still have that list. And then I wrote down what I can accomplish — what I have the resources to accomplish — and the first thing on that list that I knew I could do was create a women’s beer club, which is Brewers Broads. Brewers Broads is a group of ladies that meet once a month and learn a little more about beer and get together over a good, well-crafted pint and appreciate it, and also increase their knowledge. The more you know about good beer, the more likely you are to appreciate it, the more likely you are to try and make it yourself. And secretly, I wanted to meet craft brew professionals outside of Brewer’s Republic. And so the next thing on the list was a craft beer week.
What is Colorado Springs Craft Week?
AH: Colorado Springs Craft Week is our own week of events designed around the connection between all of the craft industries in town. So we all have this similar mission and goal to gain more support for this higher-quality, crafted product and by us all coming together it creates this synergy. We’re helping teach the consumer about why craft products are a better product, we’re celebrating together, and we’re creating a greater philanthropic result through that synergy aspect.
So it’s a week of events throughout the city that have been designed by ... the local craft businesses in town. At the end of the week we’re all going to be getting together in one location for a festival. I wanted to make these experiences that I’ve had to search for — to find that craft beer was my passion — I wanted to bring it to the forefront, and I didn’t want to have to have Colorado Springs look for it anymore.
What is the goal of Craft Week?
If we come together, the bar will raise [sic] naturally because we’re lending our ideas to each other, we’re lending our expertise.
AH: Our goal is to build a support for local craft businesses. The first step to build that support is to show a unified mission from all craft businesses. If we band together and create a unified picture, then the consumers will have a better picture of what they need to support. We also want to highlight events that are already happening in the community; there’s already some great things going on … and also, to create new ones to encourage the local crafters to raise the bar even further. If we come together, the bar will raise [sic] naturally because we’re lending our ideas to each other, we’re lending our expertise.
The demographic for this year is people that are already supporting at least one craft business and to open their eyes to the other craft businesses in Colorado Springs, and eventually to reach people supporting craft businesses in Denver and Fort Collins. The long-term goal is to showcase Colorado Springs in a fashion that will attract people from out of town.
Where is the Springs in terms of craft culture, and what is your vision for it?
AH: The Springs is growing so fast. Where we were six months ago to where we will be in six months will [find the Springs] more than doubling in craft businesses. So my vision and hope for the Springs is that we don’t lose our collaborative spirit, that we don’t lose our quality, that we maintain this camaraderie and remember that we all have the same goal.
Any closing remarks?
So long as you make a great pint of beer, everything else will fall into place.
AH: Well, so when it comes down to it, I just want to make beer and I want to do it really well. As much effort as I put into this craft beer community growing, at the end of the day, my passion is to create a great beer. That’s where the focus needs to lie. It needs to lie on the creation of it. So long as you make a great pint of beer, everything else will fall into place.