Nov 14, 2013 - By Bob Vines, Northern Wyoming Daily NewsTEN SLEEP (AP) -- Some may call Cole Smith of Ten Sleep a visionary. Where many would see an old tank from a gas truck, Smith sees a barbecue grill. Where many would see a fallen telephone pole, Smith sees a boat. He and a colleague have built a hot rod from things they found "lying around."
Smith's biggest asset may be his property that butts up against the red cliffs west of Ten Sleep. The expansive red barn with the green roof is a landmark as you descend the hill into the small town. The image looking west toward the barn as the sun rises over the nearby Bighorn Mountains is postcard worthy.
Faced with the need to make the property pay for itself, the visionary looked toward his barn and had an idea. He was going to make beer in it.
With the help from a wide group of investors, Ten Sleep Brewing Company has been making beer in the big red barn since mid-October.
Smith got the idea while visiting western Washington State a few years ago, and thought his barn and the Ten Sleep setting would be a perfect place for a small craft brewing facility. He enlisted the help of wife, Carol, and sons, Justin and Louie.
Justin Smith, the company's operations manager and on-site brewer, made the move to Ten Sleep with his young family this summer to run the operation with his father. Louie Smith works in the mining industry in Green River and will take over the company's marketing strategy.
Justin Smith brings an engineer's mentality to the operation. The aerospace/mechanical engineer has a resume that includes working for universities, military contracts and in the renewable energy field. He is now using his experience in the world of craft beers.
Admittedly, he leaves the artistic side of brewing to brewmaster Jeremy Tofte with Thai Me Down Restaurant and Brewery in Jackson Hole.
The tap room is currently serving five different beers that include a porter, a golden ale, an American ale, a pale ale and an amber, served across a bar that Cole Smith built in 1970. The recipes are developed by Tofte while Justin and Cole Smith work the technical side of the brewing operation.
The plan is for their partners in Jackson Hole to expand their brand west while Ten Sleep Brewing Company will expand through central Wyoming and east.
The Smiths are quick to offer gratitude to a broad group of investors that helped pay for the brewery's equipment. They also reached out through social media and opened an account on indiegogo.com that raised $14,300 in increments of $5 to $1,000 per investor.
"Given our ambience and location and that Wyoming is so fiercely nativist, I think Wyoming is willing to give us a chance," Justin Smith said. "Our challenge is that we will have to supply consistently good beer. Or else none of this works."
To contrast the father's visionary style, the son takes a more pragmatic approach saying, "first things first."
"We have to start selling kegs," he said, adding that this winter will be, "figure it out winter."
They will continue to find ways to get their product to neighboring counties and develop a marketing strategy.
Justin Smith also said that they need to figure out the best approach to maximize the production of the two-man brewing operation and how to deliver a quality product.
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