From Cockpit To Taproom, Denver Brewery Takes Off

Denver’s FlyteCo Brewing is opening a second location this summer that’s quite a departure from a traditional craft brewery. It will be a brewpub at a former 164-foot-tall airport control tower and have six bowling lanes, 18 holes of miniature golf and a wall-mounted 5-foot-tall, 6 ½-foot-wide Scrabble board.

Co-owners Jason Slingsby and Eric Serani Aviation are private pilots, and aviation has been the theme of the brewery since it opened in March 2019 in the Mile High City’s Berkeley neighborhood. The brewery contains aviation-design elements, including a salvaged plane wing and a full-size replica of a Boeing 737 fuselage, and 10% of profits are donated to aviation scholarships, youth engagement programs and veterans’ organizations.

The brewpub will be about 10 miles east at Denver’s former airport, Stapleton International, which stopped operating commercial flights in 1995. The brewpub will operate in a space previously occupied by the Punch Bowl Social restaurant and entertainment complex, which featured bowling alleys, karaoke rooms, miniature golf and arcade games.

“The decision to pursue and open our second location was very much expedited when this property became available,” says FlyteCo Brewing’s other co-owner Morgan O’Sullivan. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we couldn’t be more thrilled about.”

Slingsby and Serani were engineering students at the University of Colorado who decided to begin brewing when a relative gave Serani a home brewing kit for his 21st birthday. Serani is an instrument-rated pilot, which allows him to fly through clouds and low visibility, and Slingsby is training for the same rating.

“Both aviation and brewing are very important to us,” O’Sullivan says. “While in high school, Eric and his father built a Van’s RV-10 aircraft in their garage, which he still flies today. However, since none of us fly for a living, brewing often takes precedence over flying.”

FlyteCo Brewing usually has 16-18 beers on tap and leans toward traditional styles.

“The brewer’s favorite out-there beer is now our peach barrel-aged barley wine,” O’Sullivan says. “Aged for eight months in rye whiskey barrels, it’s a 13% ABV glass of complex-yet-smooth flavors with just enough sweetness from the peaches to balance it out.”

Every style of beer is probably available in craft-beer-mad Denver’s 100 or so breweries, brewpubs and taprooms, so how can a new brewery like FlyteCo Brewing compete and carve out a profit?

“Competition breeds excellence,” O’Sullivan says. “Without the constant push to be better from neighboring breweries, the Denver beer scene would not be nearly as incredible as it is today. We are also an innately collaborative industry. We see each other as cohorts rather than competitors. After all, the rising tide raises all ships.”

Besides heavy competition, FlyteCo Brewing, like all other breweries, has had to cope with the pandemic.

“We were fortunate to have a full year of business under our belt before the first shutdown hit in March 2020,” O’Sullivan says. “The community rallied around us, and, without its support, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The pandemic forced us to innovate, and we opened a coffee shop and bagel sandwich shop inside of our brewery. We extended business hours from a more standard 3 p.m-10 p.m. pre-pandemic to 7 a.m.- 9 p.m. today. We’re one of the earliest breweries open in Colorado — if not the earliest!”

Future plans are “to continue to grow the brand and build meaningful connections with our communities along the way,” O’Sullivan says. “That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see a FlyteCo in every major airport in the country.”

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