Mountain Tap starts canning beer, rolling it out locally first (with video)

Since it opened in 2016, enjoying a beer at Mountain Tap Brewery generally required people to belly up to the bar in the tap room in downtown Steamboat Springs. Not anymore.

While the local brewery has sold crowlers in the past — smaller than a growler, it’s a larger can that contains about three beers — the new venture into traditional 12-ounce cans to sell in liquor stores was always part of the eventual plan.

“Our long-term plan was to get into cans at some point,” said Rich Tucciarone, owner and brewmaster at Mountain Tap. “The pandemic kind of pushed it a little bit more to the forefront, but it didn’t radically alter our course by any means.”

This isn’t a drastic change for the brewery, Tucciarone said, rather he sees it as an extension. The plan is to start slow, selling cans at Central Park Liquor of Steamboat at first, to ensure the brewery can meet demand, Tucciarone said.

Rich Tucciarone, owner and brewmaster at Mountain Tap Brewery, loads the machine with empty cans labeled Locals' Lager. The local brewery is now canning a few popular varieties of beer sold on site and at Central Park Liquor. (Shelby Reardon)

“It is another way for people to sample our beer, to take it home with you, for visitors to take it home back to the Front Range or out of state,” Tucciarone said.

He plans to stick local for the next few years, hoping to get to more liquor stores in town before branching out beyond the Yampa Valley.

Cans of Locals’ Lager, a German-style pilsner, and Passionate Pedal, a tropical, bright and citrusy wheat beer, are already available at Central Park Liquor as of Wednesday. This fall, Tucciarone said he is also going to can a yet-to-be brewed India pale ale he plans to call Hoppy Hiker.

Mountain Tap Brewery is now canning Locals' Lager and Passionate Pedal and selling six packs at the brewery as well at Central Park Liquor. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

The brewery purchased the new canning machine for about $30,000, Tucciarone said. It’s rather high-tech but is also compact. It takes about three people to operate, one cleaning the empty cans, one loading the machine and a third cleaning the newly canned beers and putting them in six-packs.

“It gives us some flexibility with our space here,” Tucciarone said. “We can roll it into the brew house when we are canning and then clean, put everything away and roll it out of the way when we are not canning.”

Tucciarone said they can do about eight to nine cans a minute when they really get going.

Mountain Tap has a machine that fills and seals the beer cans, but the can preparation, loading and packaging is all done by hand. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Patty Vargas, part-owner, and liquor and beer purchaser at Central Park Liquor, said she has been waiting for Mountain Tap to put its beer in cans for many years.

“We are super proud of representing all of our Steamboat breweries,” Vargas said. “(Tucciarone) has been so popular; he has had a hard time keeping up with production just for his tap room.”

Vargas said she has been discussing having Mountain Tap beer on the store’s shelves for months, figuring out pricing, where it would be placed and planning how to market the beer.

The store also carries beer from other local brewers, such as Storm Peak Brewing Co. and Yampa Valley Brewing Co.

Local beer is something customers reach out for, Vargas said, and it is important local breweries are featured in the store. Steamboat’s strong happy hour crowd goes to all the various breweries in town, and people want to see them do well, Vargas said.

Tucciarone said each of the breweries in town communicates and works well with each other, each having a slightly different business model.

“We talk about it like every couple months, and then we always get too busy, then you talk about it again six months later,” Tucciarone said.

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