About eight years ago, A.J. Brinckerhoff’s brother bought him a homebrewing kit for Christmas, and for A.J., that was it. He wanted more. He spent all of his time learning about brewing and attending craft-beer events. He created his own recipes. And he spent hours with the guys at the homebrew shop.
A.J. and his wife, Darcy, started making small batches of beer in their garage for friends. But as the beer scene in Colorado started to blow up, their friends convinced them to quit their jobs and brew for a bigger crowd. A.J. broke his way into brewing jobs – scrubbing floors and making deliveries to sneak a peek into the day-to-day of a not-always-glamourous job – and started construction on a new joint on the side.
That new joint – Angry James Brewery – opened earlier this year at 421 Adams Ave., on what will soon be Silverthorne’s revitalized downtown corridor. The community-focused brewery features a Norwegian Farmhouse Ale, as well as an American Style IPA and an American Style Brown Ale. They also always feature some seasonal pours.
We sat down with A.J. to find out what makes Angry James Brewery tick.
According to A.J.
I think every homebrewer’s dream is to quit their job and do it for a living. Making beer is a fun process. But it can be hard to get your foot in the door, even if you do have experience. Jobs in the brewhouse are in short supply. I decided I was going to open my own brewery whether or not someone hired me, and started volunteering at a lot of breweries trying to get a job. I was starting to buy equipment, and then I got a job at Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. in Edwards. It was total entry-level—I was delivering kegs and cans in Eagle County and driving down to Denver to get supplies. When I was at the brewery, I was basically scrubbing floors and doing stuff that no one else wanted to do.
With beer, there are so many options. You could have two brewers make brown ale and they could be so different but equally delicious for their own reasons. You can take a traditional style, put your own twist on it and make it yours. That’s what makes it fun. Then it’s your recipe, and no one else has it.
When I was homebrewing, I’d think, “Oh, I could do this professionally. It would be easy.” I was dead wrong. It’s a really fun way to make a living, but it’s also really challenging. It’s very physical work. Stuff breaks all the time. You’re constantly wet and cold and covered in yeast and dealing with chemicals. The drinking beer part is really fun, but for some of the other parts, you have to really love it. You’ll be wearing rubber boots basically every day for the rest of your life.
Breweries are places people go to congregate. Look at how biergartens started in Europe, where you had these big long tables and people would sit and talk, sometimes to people they knew, sometimes to people they didn’t. A lot of breweries try to create a relaxed, social setting, where people can just hang out. Our focus is on our local community, and on providing beer for our local community. We’re not going to be sending huge trucks of beer out every day.
Beer is mostly psychological. If you’re in a place that’s really echo-y and there’s not a lot of stuff to look at, and maybe the people next to you are super rude and you’re having an overall poor experience, that can make your food taste bad. That can make a great beer taste just mediocre. But if you’re looking at Red Peak and Buffalo Mountain and there’s snow on top, and you’ve got a friendly bartender, there’s music playing, you’re warm and cozy, and then you take a sip of that beer, that helps with the overall experience. That’s what we’re trying to do.