An idea was brewing

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Four friends to open microbrewery in an attempt to get a head

By Ramsey Scott

It’s fitting that 38 State Brewing, a soon-to-open microbrewery in south Littleton, found a home in an old automotive garage. 

The brewery has its origins in co-owners Mike and Kim Keating’s own garage a few years ago. 

“On the weekends, Brett (Blazek) and I would make beer as often as we could, and then we’d run out. Jason (Virzi) would come over and help us drink it all,” Mike Keating said. “We’d make beer until midnight. Brett’s wife would call and yell at us if we were going too late.” 

As Mike Keating and Blazek got better and better at making beer, more and more people started showing up at Keating’s garage to sample the homemade suds. 

“We had a rule: If the garage was open, that meant you could come in for a beer,” Mike Keating said. 

Two years ago, as Mike and Kim Keating, along with co-owners Blazek and Virzi, were enjoying some of the homemade brew, the group had the idea to start a microbrewery.

“We sat on the patio one night drinking beer we had made, and we decided to get an LLC,” Mike Keating said. “We put the cart before the horse and came up with the label and all the stuff we could have done. Maybe we should have been looking at spaces instead.” 

That night the group went online and used a legal website to file paperwork to form a limited liability company. And they picked the name to honor Colorado as the 38th state to join the union.

“It was almost just for fun to start, just to get an LLC formed and the name trademarked because it was cool,” Kim Keating said. “And then it just started snowballing.”

And while it could have been nothing more than a crazy idea that friends had over some beers, Mike Keating said the possibility refused to go flat. 

“I didn’t want to be 50 years old and thinking to myself, ‘It would have been cool to be a brewer,’ ” Keating said. “I didn’t want to have that thought.”

So the group started working on turning their home-brewing hobby into a real business. Mike Keating said they discovered that opening a brewery is not an easy task. 

“It’s a hard process,” he said. “I didn’t realize all the things you had to do. At first, we thought you just rented a space and made beer.”

Even renting a space was challenging. Until late last year, Littleton allowed breweries only in industrially zoned areas. So finding a space in the city proved challenging at first. 

“We had looked at 10 or 15 places originally with our first real estate agent,” Virzi said. “This was the first place we looked at with our new agent, and we were all ecstatic. The Realtor had to actually curb our enthusiasm so we weren’t giving away all our cards.”

It wasn’t just that they had found an old garage, at 8071 South Broadway, to help re-create the feeling of the Keatings’ own garage. It was important to Mike Keating and Virzi, both Littleton natives and graduates of Columbine High School, that it be in the city. 

“This is pride in your local community. I’m proud to be a citizen of Littleton and to be a graduate of Columbine and to bring this product to this part of the city. I take a lot of pride in that, and I know these guys do too,” Virzi said. 

Unlike brewpubs, which serve food, 38 State is a microbrewery, which means it won’t serve food or any other alcohol besides its own beer. 

“I didn’t want to deal with making burgers. I just wanted to focus on beer,” said Mike Keating, who will act as 38 State’s brewmaster. 

While the brewery won’t open until March, and the garage has a long way to go before it becomes a microbrewery, the goal is in sight.

“As corny as it sounds, beer is kind of life. As cliché as it is to say that, it’s something everyone can enjoy,” Blazek said. “And I think that’s what we’re trying to do —it’s that friendship and hanging out and producing a product that we like and believe in.”

To find out more about 38 State Brewing and its opening date, visit the company’s website at www.38statebrew.com.