“We made a point of hiring beertender and service staff who were craft beer lovers first.”
Bent Barley Co-Owner and Co-Brewer Shares His Experiences Starting a Successful Veteran-Owned Brewery
Bent Barley Brewing in Aurora Colorado was started by two friends and coworkers, Mark Job and Paul Dampier, who share a love of homebrewing and enjoying great beers with friends. As a majority veteran-owned brewery, Bent Barley is committed to utilizing American brewing equipment and ingredients, and providing support to their local community and businesses. Mark recently took time to talk with Portland Kettle Works, describing the connection between his military career and his brewing career in the following manner:
“During a 20-year United States Air Force career I was stationed all over the world. That led to an appreciation of classic beer styles, the importance of authenticity to those styles, and also a willingness to experiment with new styles and brewing processes.”
“Our beautiful brewhouse is a 10bbl system provided by Portland Kettle Works. PKW shares our commitment to supporting local businesses, using American-made equipment, and an emphasis on the finest quality craftsmanship.”
PKW: Where did you find the courage and inspiration to start your veteran-owned brewery?
BBB: As long-time home brewers, craft beer aficionados, and co-workers, we [Mark and Paul] discussed taking the love of beer to the next level for a few years before actually making the leap. The support of the local Colorado craft beer industry and our friends and families made the decision easier.
PKW: What was the biggest challenge in starting your veteran-owned brewery and how did you overcome it?
BBB: Finding a commercial location in an area that was under-served, and that also had a concentration of craft beer fans. The commercial real estate industry in Colorado has been hot for years, and the craft brewery industry has kept pace with new breweries popping up all over. When we first started planning, Aurora had 3 breweries in 4 locations. Today those numbers are 8 breweries and 10 locations with a cidery and meadery also added to the mix. Patience was key to finding the right location for us. We looked at a lot of spaces where a little compromise would have allowed us to close the deal, but they just didn’t feel right. When we looked at our current location, we knew we’d found the right spot almost immediately. A close second challenge was balancing the planning, build-out, and opening with full-time jobs in the tech sector.
PKW: Now that you’ve gone through the process, what would you do differently?
BBB: Not much, actually. The almost 4-year planning and build-out gave us a lot of time to discuss the important decisions and to work through problems to find compromises when needed.
PKW: What has brought you the most success in your business?
BBB: Having well-defined roles for us and the rest of our team. Paul has the final say in brewery production, and I run the business side of the house. Our families have pitched in a bunch to provide not only taproom management but different perspectives and steady advice on important decisions and the minutia of starting in a different industry than we were used to. We also made a point of hiring beertender and service staff who were craft beer lovers first, whether they had service industry experience or not. Their commitment to the craft shines through in the service they provide to our customers.
PKW: What’s your funniest/most memorable moment at the brewery so far?
BBB: There are a few: the night we had a reindeer in the tap room courtesy of the guy who picks up our spent grain; the occasional yeast or wort shower on brew or transfer days; the opening night chaos as all of our friends, old and new, showed up to support us, really stressing our team and systems to keep up with the demand — it is still our biggest single night for beer sales. However, the one that stands out most of all was tasting the first beer we brewed on our system and realizing that we were already making really good beer — and that we were going to make a lot more.
The women of Bent Barley recently brewed an all-natural cherry wheat beer to celebrate Women’s History Month with $1 from each beer going to local charities benefiting women and families. #womenhelpingwomen
PKW would like to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his service to our country, as well as to the craft beer drinkers he serves via their veteran-owned brewery. If you are planning a visit to Aurora Colorado, please take the time to stop in and say “hi” to Mark, Paul, and the rest of the Bent Barley Brewing team. Cheers!