Before Don Bryant met Dane Chapin face to face, the two brought their business entities and unique skills together to craft a new Aspen-brewed beer brand that celebrates the American worker.
“We sat right at that table and that was the first time we ever met, and the first time we ever tasted the beer together, and we were shipping it the next week,” Bryant said, pointing to one of the Aspen Tap patio tables at their Saturday launch party. “It’s been a crazy turn of events. You don’t often get partnerships and friendships with movie stars to align. And it’s not about money or other stuff. We are doing this because we love it.”
Bryant is the CEO of Legacy Breweries — operating under the offshoot High Country Brewing LLC name — which in fall 2019 bought Aspen Brewing Co. that runs Aspen Tap in downtown Aspen. He recently partnered with Chapin — as well as his wife, Katherine — a California-based entrepreneur who calls Aspen his second home, as well as actor Scott Eastwood, son of famed actor and director Clint Eastwood, to bring the “Made Here Beer” brand to life.
Among their other endeavors, the Chapins are responsible for many versions of the board game Monopoly, including the Aspen edition.
“I’ve started a lot of different businesses. I had this crazy idea five years ago to create a company that celebrates America at its best. One thing led to another and we came up with the idea of ‘Made Here,’” Dane Chapin said. “More than 90% of all beer consumed in the U.S. has some foreign component to it, whether it’s foreign-owned or has foreign ingredients. So we wanted something that really pays respect to the American worker, all they do and all the hard work. There is nothing more celebratory than beer.”
Eastwood, a fellow Californian who became friends with Chapin through a few real estate deals many years ago, is the other half of the “Made Here” company that focuses on creating 100% made and manufactured American products. The creation of a beer brand under that label is their most recent step, and Aspen is center stage.
Because Chapin has no background in brewing beer, he partnered with Bryant back in November to make it happen. The “Made Here Beer” is mostly made in the Aspen Brewing Co. brewery located at the Aspen Business Center, with a second brewery located in Denver to serve the Front Range.
“We got a pretty amazing product that we are all really proud of,” Eastwood said in a phone interview with The Aspen Times on Saturday. “Dane and I go way back. … He was going to celebrate America by building a company around American manufacturing and keeping it all here. I really loved the idea and the concept. So we went off to the races. Beer was sort of a next step, because what is more American than beer, and we both like beer.”
The mastermind behind the beer is Scott Kimball, Aspen Brewing Co.’s head brewer who Bryant brought in when he took over the brand. Kimball has created an ale, IPA and lager under the “Made Here” label, with more varieties in the works.
It’s not just the beer that is made domestically. All the ingredients are grown or sourced in the U.S., and this includes for the packaging.
“The biggest goal here was to make beers that appeal to a broad range of people and to bring the masses of beer drinkers back to an American-made product, and something they can be proud of,” Kimball said. “We are relatively little guys that are going up against large corporations that a lot of people think are these classic, American-made breweries, but they are not even owned or based in America anymore.”
Chapin spent many hours mulling over the “Made Here Beer” logo. It depicts their own version of Uncle Sam, here dubbed simply “Sam,” wearing a patriotic cap and undone tie in a way that represents the American workers on multiple fronts.
“He lives in the present, and he’s looking to the future. His sleeves are rolled up to represent hard work and hard-working Americans,” Chapin said. “His tie is untied to serve as a reminder that we also need to celebrate hard work. He is tipping his cap to the people who clock in early and check out late. He’s got a star and stripes on his hat to represent America and American exceptionalism.”
For now, Aspen Tap, Capitol Creek Brewery in Willits — also owned by Bryant’s company — and a few downvalley liquor stores are the only places to find the beer locally, although they are beginning to work with businesses to make it more available. It’s readily found in stores across the Front Range, and they have a big Texas push upcoming to get the beer into that market.
“The sky is the limit as far as things we can do that support America and America’s manufacturing. I think the brand could exist beyond just beer. So we are just taking it one step at a time and seeing how that goes,” Eastwood said. “People are really behind the movement. We got a lot of support in the community around it. There is a lot of goodwill toward this movement. It’s exciting to be doing something that really has a social impact for our country.”