If you’ve had the opportunity to order and enjoy a craft beer in the state of Colorado within the past 15 years, chances are Rick Abitol had something major to do with brewing it. He begins by explaining that the road wasn’t always easy in the beginning; he has worked multiple jobs at the same time as owning a business, at multiple times throughout his career in order to become successful.
A computer technician by trade, Rick started brewing beer back in the late 90’s. He says that he was bit by the home brewing bug severely early on. After gaining a few years of experience brewing for Golden City Brewery and Twisted Pine, by 2001 Rick was a brewmaster working for Rock Bottom Brewery, a position that lasted eight years until the company was then bought out by Craft Works.
Growing tired of working so hard for others while having to constantly readjust to always changing rules, 2012 is when Rick decided to be his own boss again by opening Wheat Ridge’s first microbrewery, Brewery Rickoli. He knew he had an original idea; make gluten free beer that tastes good so everyone can enjoy. Their trick is using a special enzyme, available to all brewers, which when added during the brewing process breaks down any gluten without affecting the flavor of the beer.
It wasn’t long before Rick found himself working with arguably one of the oldest, best and original brewing companies in America. In 2013, Brewery Rickoli was selected for Sam Adam’s Brewing the Dreams program. To be eligible, they filled out all required paper work as well as submitted a 300 word essay. Once they sent in their application, within a few weeks, they received a response that they won! They were flown to Boston, Massachusetts to meet with the brewmaster at Sam Adams where they created a collaboration beer and received additional advice on brewing.
Tell me about Brewery Rickoli – What got you or the business started, and how did the idea for your business come about and when did you start?
I started brewing in the 90’s, and then by 2000 I became a professional brewer. I used to be a computer tech at my own computer rental business but once I found beer, I just kind of… Well I don’t know, I just ignored the business and then lost it [laughs] because I became so busy brewing beer. In 2001, I had already started working part time as a brewmaster, and I was declaring bankruptcy at my own business at the same time, so it made it cheaper to work actually, I didn’t have to have so much money to pay my bills. So that’s when I started working odd jobs as a brewer. I worked at Golden City Brewery, for 3 years, I used to help out at the twisted pine, and I used to live in pueblo for a couple years. When I was working in golden city I started working part time at the Denver Chop House and the Chop House is owned by Rock Bottom. I eventually got on with Rock Bottom and became a head brewer for them which lasted about 8 years, and then when they sold the business to a company called Craft Works, which I saw as kind of my exit point because things like the culture was changing, so that’s when I started my own brewery, only to realize that we had no money, but it was a great idea!
So my spark for wanting to start and what I’m doing is basically I didn’t want tow rok for other people anymore. I didn’t like how people kept coming in and changing the rules and I wanted to work for myself. So I knew how to brew great beer and I wnted to share that. I’d also been kind of keep9ng this thing under my head where I’m using an enzyme that breaks down the glutin in a lot of beers, so it might sound like quite the process but I can still make my great beer and add this enzyme to it and not change it, therefore making it more accessible while keeping the quality high.
With 300 breweries in the state, you have to do something that’s going to differentiate you. There are a lot of folks out there who can’t drink beer because of the gluten and they don’t want to drink cider or hard liquor, and they really miss beer, so that’s what we’re here for.
In 2013 we won the Sam Adams brewing and business experience ship. They took us under their wing for a year and we got to get graded and received help and guidance, as well as did a collaboration beer with them. I can’t say anymore, but I did just get back from Boston last week so it’s very possible that there may be something in the future but I can’t say what it is at this point.
How long have you lived or have been located in Wheat Ridge for? Or why did you relocate to Wheat Ridge?
No, it was just an empty spot here. We opened in November of 2012. We have been doing really well and growing since.
Was their anything in particular that attracted you most to Wheat Ridge?
There was kind of a void and a need in this town. When we opened up, you know, we were the first brewery in wheat ridge. When we came and looked around, we didn’t see anyone else. It was also close to my house and I was working at park meadows, so it helped my commute every day. It was really attractive to find a spot that was so nice, off a busy street, with no brewery in sight. We though, “we should open up here!” We really love the community here, the people that are from here are very proud and you don’t get that from people in Arvada and wheat ridge or even Denver, people can be all about themselves and here =, we’re a lot more community minded. It really shows, our regulars are awesome, they make us feel necessary.
What has been your biggest challenge for your business so far?
Just our small size. We have to really hard to keep up and it’s sometimes hard for people to take us seriously because we’re really small.
And what has been the biggest success?
We’ve gotten a few medals and we won 2nd place for our beer ‘The static’.
What has been your most successful strategy with Marketing?
Could you describe one of your typical workdays? What is it that you find most enjoyable?
Well I wear a lot of hats! So typically when I come in, I see what needs to be done and that dictates my day. So whether it’s brewing beer or transferring beer, or getting beer kegs shipped off or cleaning the tap lines and that’s what I love about it. I love the variety of things that I can do in a day, and that I get to say what it is, because it’s up to me to turn the wheel.
Does your organization have any big plans for 2016?
Actually, they’re all for 2017 [laughs]. I can’t explain or say much, but we may be looking for a bigger spot some place in Wheat Ridge but we’re in the middle of trying to figure out a way to make that work for us.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? Or what are some of your favorite things to do while in Wheat Ridge for fun?
I visit other breweries pretty regularly and last month I did some hiking and camping. Really just anything in the outdoors, I love Colorado!
If a young entrepreneur walked up and asked for your advice but you only had a minute to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Make money, don’t spend money. That’s what Jim Cook told me and that was my biggest takeaway.
If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
If you could high five one person, living or not, who would it be?
Jimmy Carter, because he legalized home brewing for everybody and I don’t think we’d be here without that.
Despite the success, it has required a strong work ethic, discipline and a lot of long hours, to which Rick says he wouldn’t have any other way. Once he discovered his love for brewing, there was no looking back, and everything else is history. Brewery Rickoli is open Monday from 3pm to 9pm, Tuesday through Thursday from 3pm to 10pm, Friday and Saturday from noon to midnight, and Sunday from noon to 8pm. Stop by Brewery Rickoli’s today to try some of the best tasting, gluten free beer in the country.
For more information, Call 303.344.8988 or visit their website at: www.breweryrickoli.com/ to view their craft brews and food choices in preparation for your visit.