2022 Navigator: Storm Peak Brewing Company makes ‘a place for it to happen’

The Navigator Awards are presented annually by Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Steamboat Springs Chamber to businesses and community leaders for their outstanding contributions to the Steamboat community.

The beer-loving brothers behind Storm Peak Brewing Company were initially looking to set up shop in Denver, where they grew up.

Zach Patterson had spent some time in Steamboat Springs as well, and eventually the plan gained 1,442 feet of altitude. At the end of 2013, they found a small space along Lincoln Avenue west of downtown.

“We were there for three years until this came available,” Zach said, while sitting on the rooftop of Storm Peak’s brewery at the corner of Elk River road. “Since then, that’s when we’ve seen the growth of Storm Peak.”

The new brewery significantly increased the amount of beer produced, jumping from 330 barrels a year to 780 barrels a year. A barrel is equivalent to two kegs, or about 250 pints.

That increase put Storm Peak on a list of the fastest growing breweries in the country. But the designation was a merit badge the owners hoped to never earn again.

“Too much, too fast, too soon,” Zach said. “Since, we’ve always just been in the mindset of just slow, steady growth and taking care of our staff and the community.”

But even with that mindset, Storm Peak has seen a significant amount of growth in the last year, adding a rooftop to the brewery, opening a taproom near Steamboat Resort, and continuing to support local nonprofits in a variety of ways — all while maintaining a strong staff amid widespread hiring problems through out the Yampa Valley.

If you go

What: 2022 Navigator Awards Celebration

When: 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 24

Where: Snow Bowl, 2090 Snow Bowl Plaza


For this, Storm Peak Brewing Company is being awarded the 2022 Navigator Business of the Year.

“The brewery has always been a community spot,” Zach said. “A good spot to come tell stories after a round of golf or after a river float or after a mountain bike trip. It’s just always been that type of community that has supported us here. Community, we support them, and it supports us. It doesn’t work if there isn’t a little give and pull from both.”

In the brewery, Storm Peak is on track to make 4,500 barrels of beer this year, up from last year’s 3,600. The beer is available in other ski towns and a few spots on the Front Range, but most of what is made is consumed in Routt County.

“Steamboat is a thirsty town,” Zach said. “We all like our beer.”

As the community has supported the brewery by “drinking the ‘boat” — a slogan Storm Peak has adopted — Zach said returning that support to the community is important.

Storm Peak donates beer to a variety of organizations, help take care of volunteers with Friends of the Yampa, brewed a collaboration beer with the Colorado Water Trust raising money to make environmental releases into the Yampa River and have worked with local fire departments to support those with muscular dystrophy.

Even the spent grain from the brewing process is eaten by Routt County cattle.

“It’s incredible that we can keep it local.” said Jules Poma, with Friends of the Yampa. “We could definitely reach out to a number of Colorado breweries that might be larger scale, but to have it be people in the valley that care about the river the way we do … having a vested interest in what we’re doing, it’s great.”

From left, Wyatt and Zach Patterson, owners of the 2022 Navigator Business of the Year Storm Peak Brewing Co.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

This spring, Storm Peak hosted the first Peak2Peak event, a crosstown beer hop benefitting LiftUp of Routt County. Zach says that is definitely happening again next year.

Norma Ruth Ryan, the “fun generating machine” of Storm Peak, said what makes the brewery so great is the culture. The business hasn’t had problems retaining employees, and in January, were able to add 16 staff in a couple weeks.

“It’s a pretty collaborating-heavy environment, there’s always something to learn to do,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of freedom to learn more. Nothing is locked off from people here, which is pretty unique.”

“We have a really awesome team,” said Aleyna Porreca, quality brewer for Storm Peak. “We want to learn from each other; we want to listen to each other.”

For now, Zach said the brewery is pretty tapped out in terms of the brew schedule. Every drop of beer made is being enjoyed. The next challenge is really figuring out what’s next, he said.

“We’re just stoked to be a part of the community,” said Wyatt Patterson. “You guys did this, we just made a place for it to happen.”

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