this week, for the small business series, i’m excited to introduce you to our mutual friend malt & brew, a brewery and tap room that’s located just down the block from crema coffee house. opened up by a group of guys that love beer a lot and love community even more, it’s a great space for the neighborhood folks and beer nerds to hang out, get to know each other, and continue coming back for beer, activities, and a revolving line-up of denver food trucks. caleb, the main commander of the tap handles, is a fabulous networker and will make sure you’ve made friends w at least the three people to the right and left of you. bryan, the brewmaster, is happy to show you around and chat w you about what the process is, what he’s working on, what’s in the pipeline. brandon, the online whiz of the whole production, will make sure you stay updated. he gets us in the know now by answering my questions…
1. what is OMF?
Our Mutual Friend is a small brewery in Denver. The main things that set us apart from a lot of other breweries is that a lot of our goals are based on a desire to do as much of the processes required in brewing ourselves, like roasting and toasting all the grains used in our beers and eventually bringing the entire malting process in-house. We also hope to eventually produce beer using all Colorado grown ingredients. We have already formed some great relationships with growers and definitely see a future where the dream is a reality. Aside from that, we have a great little taproom and patio in downtown Denver that is becoming a neighborhood meet-up spot. it’s definitely a place to socialize, work, or anything else you can think of that would be good with beer.
2. how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
We all met at a couple different house parties and immediately hit it off on the subject of home brewing. From there we brewed beer together and when Bryan started to think about taking things to the next level, we all seemed to bring different strengths and experience to the table that allowed everything to look like it could really happen. The inspiration definitely came from working hard on each step of the process and having things fall into place. We didn’t really know what it would all look like (or taste like) but we knew it needed to be exactly the beer we wanted to drink and the place we wanted to drink it in.
3. what had the process been from conception to execution? (this can include opening/evolving the business to making your goods to both!).
The process has been about communication and reassessing where we are at based on the facts of the moment. Im sure any new business owner can attest that some of the details you may have had at the genesis of it all go right out the window, but they usually are replaced by something far more enjoyable or functional within the paradigm of what you’re doing. We knew we wanted to make really good beer. We knew we wanted to do as much of the grain to glass process ourselves. We knew we wanted the taproom to be far from normal industrial/warehouse type taprooms you see these days. Other than that we took it one day at a time and had a solid business plan.
4. has creating/developing/launching/
Building it was difficult in its own way, but the easy part is knowing there is a finish point. Maintaining the business has been an interesting adjustment in that you don’t quite get that this all needs to happen every day and hopefully forever. You have to deal with becoming more factory like than you thought it would be. You have to keep scheduling people to work. You have to keep working. It’s fun and tiring and challenging all at the same time.
5. are you doing this solo or do you have other partners/collaborators/helpers in the brand?
There are three of us that own the brewery and work alongside a few employees who are also good friends and invaluable to us. The brewing industry is great in that we are definitely aware of the subtle competition we all have in hopes of growing the market share and getting people into craft beer. Everyone has similar goals of making beer that people love, and within that there is definitely a lot of awesome inter-brewery collaboration that happens. We all share ideas and equipment and help each other solve problems. It’s a great industry to be in.
6. who, if anyone, has helped w branding/website development/maintenance?
Our friend, Justin Pervorse, in Atlanta, GA has been with us since day one creating our identity and logos as well as all the cool illustrations used for our beer label designs. We also work a lot with the screen printing shop next door (A Small Print Shop) who are a silly, creative bunch. Paul Michel does awesome illustrative work here and there, and I (Brandon) try to coordinate with everyone to bring all together into a cohesive message… That people should come hang out with us and drink our beer.
7. when did you open?
We opened at the beginning of December in 2012.
8. where can you be found?
We are located at 2810 Larimer st. in the RiNo neighborhood.
9. what new/other businesses are you excited about in denver? or would you like to see in denver?
We love all the awesome things happening in the neighborhood (Huckleberry Roasters, Crema, Infinite Monkey Theorem, The Populist, Black Shirt Brewing, River North Brewery, Ritual Chocolate, Moto Ocho, Amerigo, Epic Brewing, etc etc etc). We want to continue seeing more variety in businesses that serve the local community and make it better. The more the merrier.
10. what’s your favorite shop in denver? favorite place for food? neighborhood?
Hard to pick favorites. Come by the taproom and we can talk about it for hours.
(dj photo from facebook)
make sure you stop by for a pint and say hello to these fine gentlemen! there’s usually something going on in addition to the brewing and beer: mondays is yoga (led by my wonderful sister-in-law). wednesdays is our mutual running club (led by paul of mountain vs plains fame). thursdays is a dj series. and wednesday thru saturday there’s a different food truck parked outside. woohoo!
on the blog today, for the new small business series, i am pleased to introduce you to the lovely people of winter session. i kept seeing the name creep up in mentions from brick & mortar, instagram, and some tweets. i was intrigued. after doing some snooping around, well, i was sold! i know every town probably has it’s leather goods and their makers. but winter session just seems to be doing the partnership of canvas and leather and rivets so freaking well. from their logo to their stitch work, it’s impeccable. they offer everything from pen rolls to wallets to canvas bags (with this simple leather handle that just makes me swoon every time i see one).
ramona and jp and i stopped by their shop one day at The Outpost on welton street in five points, just a stone’s throw from crema. tanya, roy, and laura graciously greeted us and welcomed us into their gorgeous workspace (open thursdays to the public and other special days for pop-ups). it’s in an old building on historic welton street and has light streaming in that perfectly highlights the details of their goods.
we had a wonderful time speaking w them: picking their brain about their move from chicago (where we last moved from!), the highly reputable restaurants they collaborate with, how they got into it, how they maintain it, what they love about denver. basically, jp and i fell in love. their passion for what they do is palpable and contagious. and their products reflect this. again, the design and construction is thoughtful and perfectly executed. furthermore, we are thrilled they’re a part of the ‘hood as they are incredible advocates of all the awesomeness going on in the five points and north larimer areas.
my photos don’t do justice for the items and the space they are created in (in my defense, my camera died when i still had many photos to take!) but just one look at their shop, online or IRL, you will get what i am talking about. read on to learn more about the inspiration and work behind the company and you will be swooning like i am…
what is winter session?
how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
We both have backgrounds in art, architecture and design — both academically, and in professional experience — and were brainstorming with our friend Tristan, who worked at our neighborhood coffee shop in Chicago (and now owns his own, Gaslight Coffee Roasters), about opportunities to do something creative that was independently driven and involved working with our hands. The general movement of young people making things definitely contributed to our motivation.
We were (and continue to be) inspired by uniforms, utilitarian wear and gear, and also Japanese aesthetics.
A lot of people comment or ask about the experience of working with each other, since we’re also married. The idea wasn’t a foreign concept: on both sides, our parents own small businesses and work with their spouses (in the realms of food, design and clothing retail, all threads that are part of Winter Session).
[Roy] My parents never questioned my desire to start a small business. [Tanya] my parents did, but because they’ve been through it, but that helped us think it through critically as well.
what has the process been from conception to execution?
Organic and meandering. It started as a side project, not with the explicit intention of it being a livelihood.
Local retail, live events, and word spreading through blogs have been responsible for connecting us with pretty much all of our wholesale accounts.
We’re currently at another milestone, of having a space that’s open to the public, where we can expand the Winter Session brand as something a bit more experiential and collaborative, rather than just based in commercial exchange. We’re doing monthly popup markets, “Weekend Specials” — the next one is coming up on June 8th for Fathers Day.
has creating/developing/launching/sustaining this been what you expected? easier or harder? what have the challenges been?
We expected it to be hard. Developing and sustaining is hard. But it’s a fun kind of business — building your own — there’s flexibility, and it’s totally open, but those are also the challenges. The same things that make it fun make it hard.
are you doing this solo or you have other partners/collaborators/helpers in the brand?
We are a small team at The Outpost, and we partner with sewing contractors in Chicago for some of our larger production. We also collaborate with other brands in designing special projects.
We also partner with other like-minded companies. For Father’s Day, we’re teaming up with the California company Juniper Ridge to offer a limited edition pre-run of our Dopp Kit stocked with Juniper Ridge’s all-natural soap and cologne, which they make by harvesting fragrances from the wilds of the West.
who, if anyone, has helped w branding/website development/maintenance?
Nathan Michael, our friend and collaborator, has helped develop a visual vocabulary for us, and helped with building out our website and crafting our graphic identity. We maintain the website, and use the Shopify e-commerce platform. We also love Square!
when did you open for business?
We started doing physical research in May 2010 and “launched” in September. It’s been a slow and steady evolution. Our current direction and collection (including our online shop) really came together a year later.
where can your items be purchased? where can you be found?
what new/other businesses are you excited about in denver? or would you like to see in denver?
We’re excited about the coffee and eating scene, cafes that are doing something special with creating an experience — like cosmopolitan Cafe Max, dreamy Black Eye Coffee and roving Public Coffee. Small craft food brands like Ritual Chocolate, Dagstani & Sons and The Real Dill. Curators of product and culture like Beet & Yarrow, Brick & Mortar, Steadbrook … There are too many to list! We’ve been so grateful for and energized by the warm community of businesses that are confidently dedicated to craft at a really high level.
We want: doughnuts. (Preferably across the street). And how about a craft butcher shop — it seems logical, as we’re surrounded by ranches. We’re pretty happy with the scene, though, and see a lot of positive energy moving toward the future.
what’s your favorite shop in denver? favorite place for food? neighborhood?
Our favorite shop is probably Ironwood, because it just does its own thing and has a magical character and presence.
Not trying to suck up, but we’ve really been digging the sweet potato waffle at Crema and anything involving seafood at The Populist (mussels, trout rillettes, ceviche). We love the areas around The Outpost; so much history and fresh opportunity side-by-side. We also really like Berkeley and LoHi.
if you live in denver and haven’t heard of tran wills or allison shaw, you will soon. these ladies are on to something pretty cool. launching this saturday, june 1, is their new mobile general store, brick & mortar: a vintage 1964 aristocrat trailer (totally original and totally made in america!) chock full of goodies for you to peruse and buy. they’ll be setting up shop first at crema on saturday and then at ace on sunday. but most likely, if you aren’t around those neighborhoods then, they’ll be headed to yours soon.
need a gift for a baby shower? bridal shower? father’s day? birthday? anniversary? for the hell of it? they’ve curated a selection of unique and well-made items (many colorado produced and all from the US of A) that will give you no excuse to leave their store empty handed. and they have grand plans for their little trailer –which they’ve primped up so nicely! you’ll be able to find them at various locations on weekends, first fridays, street fairs, markets such as horseshoe and sweet william, and warehouse spaces (the thing is compact and can fit into any place w garage doors — which denver has plenty). check them out, stop by to look, say hello to these delightful women, and leave w something that will feel handpicked for you.
a couple of weekends ago they graciously gave me a sneak peek into what they’ve been up to. here’s what they had to say about it:
1. what is brick & mortar?
Brick & Mortar is a lot of things. In terms of inventory, Brick & Mortar is a modern-day general store where one can find anything from all-natural cleaning supplies to the perfect accessory to a gift for Father’s Day. While it may not specialize in any one particular item or genre, it does offer a variety of specialty and one-of-a-kind items that are available in limited quantities and rotate regularly so that the inventory is always different. In terms of the actual, physical space, Brick & Mortar is a traveling boutique that travels from place to place, setting up an outdoor store that is both inside and outside of a 1964 Aristocrat low-line trailer. In terms of a project, Brick & Mortar is a creative outlet, where we can do what we love, provide exposure for new, talented artists and craftspeople, and contribute to the enhancement of the community.
2. how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
We had been talking about starting a store for over a year and landed on the mobile retail concept after seeing other mobile stores on the West coast and in Australia. With Tran having recently bought a trailer, we were in a perfect position to start making it happen. As opposed to taking inspiration from existing “fashion trucks,” we looked at our favorite boutiques in Denver, San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles. We didn’t want our inventory or aesthetic to be like anything that already existed in Denver, but instead wanted it to have hints of things that we loved and found to be valuable in other stores — like products that are 100% made in the U.S., clean and curated display strategy, and simple and cohesive branding.
3. what has the process been like from conception to execution?
Although the idea for the store started over a year ago, it feels like the execution really just began six months ago when we first started building the foundation for the business. From there, it has been a whirlwind of finding and securing vendors, working w artists to create custom items and build display materials, designing our own brand pieces, and scheduling stops over the summer. Throughout everything, everyone we’ve encountered has been incredibly supportive and many people have offered their hand in helping any way they can.
4. has creating/developing/launching this been what you expected? easier or harder? what have the challenges been?
Going into it, we didn’t have a lot of expectations, because the idea was always to do something that would allow us to have a creative outlet to work on in addition to our day jobs – initially. We knew that we had to allow ourselves to be a bit flexible, as we both had other responsibilities, but after we set our goal open date, things fell into place rather nicely. The vendors and artists that we have been working with have been incredible, which has made things easier than they could have been, and the lack of overhead makes things a bit simpler, as we don’t have a need to renovate and re-design a full retail space or find investors to fund our rent and build-out costs prior to opening. The greatest challenge that we have met thus far, is really finding a way to display all of the products in a way that keeps all of the inventory safe, showcases it in a way that will be appealing to customers, and also in a way where the product is shown in the context of how it will be used (i.e. home goods inside the trailer, displayed as a home would). The other challenge has been determining what the set up of the trailer will look like and also making sure that it is something that is realistic for the two of us to set up by ourselves in a reasonable amount of time. Being as our store is partly inside the trailer and partly outside the trailer (set up like an outdoor shop), we needed to make sure that all of the display pieces are light, able to fit into our cars and/or trailer, and that they will hold up after being moved around all summer. While we’re extremely confident that everything we have will hold up – we’ll find out come June when we start using them!
5. tell us about other collaborators/helpers in the shop/brand?
We have been lucky enough to have a lot of great collaborators:
- Local artist, Rob Mack, created a series of custom display pieces for us that are designed in his personal style, but inspired by the aesthetic of our existing branding and the trailer.
- Sean Rice, a Denver handyman, to build a plexi-glass display table where we can display items that need extra protection from the elements.
- We enlisted the help of Sara Ford to get some good shots of the trailer for us to use on our website and social sites.
- We’ve received a ton of help from designers, Andrew Hoffman and Josh Wills, who have developed all of our branding and branding materials for us.
We are working w several other retailers to host pop-up shops throughout the summer where they will set up a smaller display of select items from their regular inventory to sell alongside the trailer. Some of these retail partners include Wishlist Vintage and Goldyn. We have plans to do an event with local salon, Goldie & Bob, which will also feature cupcakes by Church of Cupcakes and other local food & beverage vendors. [there’s also plans for tune-up times where a local bike mechanic will be on hand to give your wheels some love!]
6. who is helping you w branding/website development?
Andrew Hoffman designed our logo and the stamps used for our business cards and price tags, and Josh Wills has been designing all of our collateral – including social media images, fliers and post cards. In terms of the website, all of the elements are designed by Josh and everything is assembled and maintained by us.
7. where can you be found?
8. here are some other denver/colorado brands they’ll be carrying in their shop (not a complete list!):
MATTER || Mondo Guerra || Winter Session || Stitch & Hammer || Fig + Yarrow || Sneerwell || Cosmic Thread || Clean Getaway Soap Co || AWKWRD MFG || Dram Apothecary || A Monster To Love || Tres Birds || Berger & Föhr || Nigel Penhale || and many many more…
9. what new/other/different businesses would you like to see in denver?
It’s hard to say – Denver is getting a lot of incredible things. There are several new restaurants and shops opening all the time, all of which are taking Denver to the next level in terms of innovation and culture. It’s great to see how people in Denver are always creating and building new things that are changing the way residents of Denver live and work. There are collaborative work spaces for creatives to meet and swap ideas, microbreweries, coffee roasters, wineries, restauranteurs, boutique alternative energy firms, advertising agencies, clothing labels, vintage motor repair shops – all of who have popped up in the past few years. Every time we think we want something, someone is working on doing it.
10. besides brick & mortar, what are your favorite shops in denver?
There are several that we love…