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Made in Carbondale: Chase Engel brewing Belgian ales

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By Nicolette Toussaint

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Hoist one for Carbondale! The Roaring
Fork Beer Company (RFBC) will be opening a tasting room and brewery
on Dolores Way next February.

Standing in an echoing, empty room that
once housed an auto detailing company, Chase Engel gestures grandly,
conjuring up the vats and tubes that will be installed in December.
He says, “I love Carbondale. It’s got a vibrancy and funkiness —
an energy that charges me up and makes me want to make cool beers. I
think people here will want to try things — not just English style
ales.”

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By year’s end, the 3,000-foot space
will hold a 15-barrel, handcrafted brewing system that will give the
company the capacity to ferment more than 6,000 barrels annually.

Starting in late February, the Roaring
Fork Beer Company’s cozy, 900-square-foot tasting room will be open
Monday through Saturday. Engel’s wife, Aly Sanguily, who heads up
marketing and events, is lining up local musicians and artists to
perform and display their work in the space. Furniture for the room
is being made by RFBC’s neighbor and artisan Brad Reed Nelson of
Board by Design, who was also recently featured in The Sopris Sun.

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“Carbondale really supports local
business, and geographically it makes sense to locate here because
our distribution is locally targeted,” Engel explains. “That’s
a big point. This is for the Roaring Fork Valley — a good fresh
beer that’s made right here. We have no dreams of distributing all
over the U.S.”

Engel plans to focus on one mainline
beer that will be produced year-round and offered at local
restaurants and liquor stores. Called “Freestone Extra Pale Ale,”
this beer will be a “perfectly blended, good, drinkable light beer,
with enough bite to excite people who like hobby beers.” The beer’s
name is a term used to describe undammed rivers. “The Roaring Fork
is not a freestone,” Engel says, “But the Crystal is and there’s
not many left in the U.S.”

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“We will bring you finely crafted
boutique style beers as well as easy-drinking, traditional style
brews” and focus “on being creative with seasonal beers, akin to
a seasonal food thing,” says Engel.

RFBC also plans to brew a line of
homemade sodas that will be named “June Bug” in honor of Engel’s
infant daughter, Harlow, who was born last June. Engel is planning to
create a root beer and a vanilla-bean soda. Bonedalians will be
welcome to come sample the sodas in the tasting room, which will be
family friendly.

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Engel has beer in his blood. He managed
beer production “from grain to glass” for the Aspen Brewing
Company. Before that, he worked as a cellar boy at Oskar Blues’
Brewery in Longmont. He initially learned the trade at the Ska
Brewing Company in Durango. Engel has won more than 40 medals in
national beer competitions, including the Great American Beer
Festival medal in 2012.

Engel grew up in Austin, Texas and was
introduced to the art of brewing by his dad, a craft brewer. After
moving to Colorado to attend college, and then moving to Durango,
Engel began making his own beer. “It’s unavoidable to spend time
in breweries in Durango,” he laughs. “It’s a huge beer town.”

Engel frequently found himself at the
Ska Brewery, experimenting in their tasting room — and brewing up
an avocation that soon turned into a lifelong vocation.

Engel is fascinated with yeast. Noting
that a brewer can use the same recipe repeatedly and get different
results just by changing the type of yeast he uses, Engel says,
“That’s the key to Belgian beer,” which uses wild yeast. “There
are a ton of variations in yeast, and so there are thousands of
varieties of beer. Lots of breweries have their own strain of yeast.
They will even have it cryogenically frozen.”

Engel uses a controlled and “more
scientific” process to work with his yeast, which comes from a lab
in Colorado Springs. Currently, the malt that he uses comes from
Wisconsin, but an all-Colorado beer may be in the brewery’s future.

Engel will be focusing on Belgian-style
beers, packaging most of them in kegs “because it’s the best form
of package for preserving quality, freshness and the environment.”
However, he plans to eventually produce a premium beer that will be
packaged in champagne bottles.

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