Hard Work and Dedication Pay Off for DU Alum
How a business plan created in graduate school turned into a growing brewery
Everything he needed to know about opening a brewery, Wyatt Patterson learned in business school.
That’s because Patterson, like many graduate students at DU’s Daniels College of Business, entered his MBA program with a specific business idea in mind. For Patterson, that idea was Storm Peak Brewing Co., which he and his brother Tyler opened in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in June 2014.
“We had spent a long time in the garage, toiling away making beer, and when I decided to come to DU and get my MBA, there were a lot of classes and projects based around entrepreneurial stuff,” Wyatt Patterson says. “I took a business plan class, and I wrote the business plan for the brewery in the class. I spent the whole two years of grad school focused on learning how to run and manage this business.”
His dedication paid off — after just two years, Storm Peak already has plans to expand, bringing its canning operation in house (the brewery currently contracts with Crazy Mountain Brewing in nearby Edwards, Colo., for its canning), increasing production and enlarging its tasting room.
“It will allow us to be more widespread in Steamboat than we are right now,” Patterson says. “We hate having to turn people down, especially local accounts who want to have us on draft. We’ll be able to satisfy everything in Steamboat with this.”
And Steamboat is satisfied with Storm Peak — the brewery’s tasting room is one of just a few places in town for beer geeks to gather, and it has quickly become a favorite spot both for locals and for tourists in town during ski season.
“We really feel like we’re part of the community up there, which is cool,” says Patterson, who with his brother considered opening the brewery in Denver before deciding to settle in Steamboat. “We’re very involved in everything going on in the town. You don’t get that in a bigger city.”
Not to say that Storm Peak doesn’t have a presence in Denver — the Patterson brothers are in the city regularly, and their beers are on tap and in liquor stores throughout the metro area. The brothers also will be in town Oct. 8–10 for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), one of the country’s largest beer fests and expos. The annual event, hosted by the Boulder-based Brewers Association, helps brewers get their product in front of beer lovers from around the globe.
“Not only are we getting that exposure, but we’re able to talk to [consumers] directly,” Patterson says. “It’s one thing to be sitting on the liquor store shelf, but it’s another to be there talking to the consumer, getting the feedback, hearing their excitement. It helps us stay in touch with what the consumers want — what they’re liking, what they’re not liking, where their tastes are evolving — so that we can better serve them.”
Just as important at the GABF, he says, is being able to network and share stories and advice with other small breweries from around the country, many of which share the same struggles.
“It’s great seeing people who you might only see once a year during GABF. It’s good to connect back with them and see what’s going on in their world,” he says. “Everybody hangs out and catches up and enjoys themselves — it’s a really fun atmosphere for the brewers. We’re all artists in our own right, so we enjoy sharing our product and talking about it. Everybody’s passionate about what they do.”