San Juan Brews

San Juan Brews

There’s no shortage of beverage options at San Juan Brews, a budding local coffee house and brewery on Main Street making waves throughout the week and welcoming crowds in droves on weekends.

Interested in craft coffee? You could order the Grizzly Peak or Lizard Head. Maybe an adult beverage for an evening visit? There’s the Ridgway lager, or Big Dog IPA. Heck, want a mix of both? You can enjoy a Whiskey Chai.

There’s other options, too, like smoothies and teas. It’s really an early riser’s dream, with an atmosphere that champions a perfect spot for a quiet, productive morning, typing away on the laptop. Or fitting for a party of two eager to discuss the week-that-was over a few drinks.

The hybrid concept came together over a series of meetings between Kevin and Chelsea McHugh, and John and Davina Pope — the McHughs were interested in opening up a brewery, and the Popes, after a successful run with their coffee truck, San Juan Mobile Coffee, were ready to expand into a brick and mortar.

The two couples discussed their visions, ideas and potential partnership.

“We wanted a very community-centric business,” Kevin said. “We came up with this, and decided to roll with it.”

The four opened the business at the start of this year (Jan. 1), several months after the Popes opened San Juan Mobile Coffee, which they parked around town serving local businesses.

In the first six months of San Juan Brews, business has seriously picked up (Davina said a packed Saturday has been the norm for the past few months). With restrictions lifted this past spring, it’s been a benefit, with residents ready to spend, and spend local.

The sense of community is evident, with local food trucks like the Southern Belle parking near the business on Wednesdays, Alarado Biscuit stopping by (usually) Wednesday through Sunday, and Mountain Country BBQ making scheduled appearances.

Storm King Distilling sends over rum and vodka, and recently sent over a whiskey barrel, which San Juan Brews has big plans for later this year. Colorado Boy helps with grain and hops, if Kevin runs out. Ray Blanchard, owner of Double Barrel Taco and Main and Vine, sets up a taco bar at San Juan Brews every other Friday.

Sometimes the owners host yoga, and other times art classes, courtesy of Anne Hockenberry.

“We’re really starting to get that network revamped,” Kevin said. “With the pandemic, everyone kind of figured, ‘how do we survive?’ And there wasn’t a lot of outreach, and that’s natural. You have to survive in your own way. But we’re coming out of that again, and figuring, ‘How do we all get along and thrive?’”

San Juan Brews co-owners on their hybrid model, community connection and collaboration with other local businesses

“It’s important for us to collaborate and work together and keep creating reasons for people to come downtown and hang out,” John said. “... collaboration is going to be another focal point as we continue to create our home here on Main Street.”

It helps that San Juan Brews’ beer is made in-house (there are some guest taps featuring other Colorado brews). Kevin does the brewing, having concocted his own recipes from years of brewing at home. He opts for a more classic style, like German and Czech pils. Pale ales are a staple. And he avoids sours.

“The beers stand on their own,” Kevin said. (He’ll mix it up sometimes, though, recently with a vanilla porter.)

And the coffee? Beyond the evolution of introducing the hybrid model, the Popes have stayed true to what worked on the truck — not too sweet, not too bitter. They’ve welcomed a courthouse blend from Cimarron Coffee Roasters and also serve Tenzo Matcha Tea, becoming the second location in Colorado to do so.

They’ve worked with Eric Palumbo, owner of Cimarron Coffee Roasters, to create their own roast — something slightly darker than the courthouse blend.

And with carbon dioxide at the ready (since the brewery is in-house), they’ve added refreshers to the menu.

Happen to stop by on Sunday and they’ve got a bloody mary and mimosa bar.

“Being able to add that adult component to a full-blown coffee house has been fun,” said John of experimenting with different beverage offerings. “... we’re trying to bring something new to the community that people haven’t seen before.”

Adding to that experimentation is Token Tuesday. For every 20 ounce drink — either coffee or beer — that’s sold on a Tuesday, San Juan Brews gives back $1 to one of two worthy causes — the Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center and Montrose Animal Shelter. The team will tally the total for quarter 3, and make the donations. In quarter 4, San Juan Brews will pick two different local charities. It’s similar for quarters 1 and 2, and totals eight organizations per year that will receive donations from the business.

“That’s very, very important to John and I, our families, to support those that support us,” Kevin said.

Support has also come from the community, and it hasn’t slowed down. Customers funneled in and out all morning last Saturday, with John, Davina, and Olathe High School graduate Gavin Lindsey at the front of the house, serving drinks all morning.

Small, local businesses typically feature hands-on owners. Often, hired employees handle front of the house tasks. But the Popes, and McHughs, tackle those duties, along with navigating behind-the-scenes operations.

They eventually hope to hire additional employees (potentially two or three, Kevin says), adding to the two they have now, which could open up some free time to work on logistics and future plans. But even during that transition, the hands-on model is one Davina says is vital — connecting with customers and having that direct contact.

“We want to keep with that,” Davina said. “Even as we grow, we will still be a big part of that front end of the house business. We feel that’s a big importance for the success of San Juan Brews.”

“That’s the bond that people really enjoy in a community — seeing the owners and being served by the owners, and we have that active part in their experience here,” Kevin said.

Ownership is prioritizing day-to-day consistency and quality before channeling and emphasizing long-term goals, Kevin said. A regional presence? It’s possible, Kevin added. Expanding the brewery? Also a consideration.

That, naturally, will take some time. For now, growing on Main Street — and enjoying that process — will do just fine.

“Opening here, it’s been a dream come true,” Kevin said. “A thriving Main Street in any community gives you a sense of how successful that town is… we love serving this community. They’ve been great to us.”

To learn more about San Juan Brews, visit sanjuanbrews.com or Facebook at San Juan Brews (@sanjuanbrews).

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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