Scott Smith entered the brewpub business kicking and screaming. "I'm not a restaurant guy," explained Smith, owner of East End Brewing Company. "I'm barely a pub guy. I avoided it like the plague." But 10 years in, with demand high and space plentiful in the brewery's new Larimer home, Smith couldn't fight it any longer. And judging by the buzzing crowd that filled the brewery on a recent Friday night — and Smith's toothy grin — the transition hasn't been so bad.
In October, East End secured a brewpub license, meaning that rather than just (liberally) sampling from the taps, you can drink a pint there. A week of events in December officially launched the new identity. But the next chapter in the life of a local craft-beer pioneer had just begun.
First, expect more to munch on. Though some brewpubs offer a token item that will never sell (what Smith calls the "$45 can of soup") to satisfy state law, East End is serving up a fine cheese plate furnished by Wheel and Wedge. Smith is supplementing that with guest food trucks, and hopes to expand to a small, locally focused menu in the coming months.
Expect more to drink as well. The bigger Larimer space leaves room to experiment, which means racks of barrels for aging beer, and equipment dedicated entirely to Brettanomyces, a yeast strain that imparts funky, sour flavors. East End's Brett Hop, for instance, takes its standard Big Hop recipe and ferments it with "Brett," creating a tart and altogether different beer.
On my way out, Smith pointed to a Christmas tree in the tasting room and said, "That's a hint of what's to come." Nestled at the top of the tree, in place of a star, was a gleaming green can of East End's flagship IPA. So if your New Year's resolution involves drinking more Big Hop, it's about to get a whole lot easier.