Crafting Bonds

4 Craft Women all copy

4 Craft Women forged friendships that will last a lifetime while using

their expertise in craft beverages to improve their community.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Four women. Four craft libations. One mission.

4 Craft Women of Fort Collins, Colo., set out on a mission last year to increase traffic to their businesses, which would then lead them to pool their resources and give more back to the community. “What makes us unique?” Kate McMahon of Lost Prairie Winery says she asked last summer. “I know being a female business owner doesn’t make me unique, but I’m a winemaker and that makes me unique.”

4 Craft Women Kate McMahon copyMcMahon approached her friends Carol Cochran, owner of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company, Loren Matthews, owner of Elevation 5003 Distillery, and Jennifer Seiwald, owner of Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar and Pub, to gauge their interest in the group. All are fellow business owners in the craft beverage industry. “Before Kate got us together, I didn’t know anyone well,” Cochran says. “Each of us are operating in a different realm, but I think 4 Craft Women has the potential to impact a bunch of people.”

4 Craft Women made its mission to host a fundraiser for Project Self Sufficiency of Loveland-Fort Collins. “We see a lot of people who have disposable income and are choosing to spend it on beer,” Cochran explains. “We live in a great community, but I don’t hear about the other side of living here.

“It’s great that we can live our passion and contribute in some small way and get out of the tunnel you have to be in to start a business,” she continues. “For me, that’s part of what makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is making a contribution every day. That’s a vital part of any small business.”

Project Self Sufficiency helps single parents access education and career development opportunities while pushing through barriers to affordable housing, quality childcare and reliable transportation. “We liked this organization because it helps single parents – men and women – get back on their feet,” McMahon says.

4 Craft Women, which is still a concept at this point, are still in the planning stages of the fundraiser they hope to host next year, but the group did say part of the fun is that they will each create a signature drink. “Fort Collins is very alcohol friendly,” Seiwald notes. “We have a very well-educated drinking population.”

Friendships for Life

Sitting in a room with the four women of 4 Craft Women is intoxicating and not just because they serve up some of the best craft libations in the city. There is an energy between the four ladies that is contagious. They truly love the industry they are in and have each other’s best interests at heart.

4 Craft Women everyone copy“We use each other as resources,” McMahon says. “Besides supporting each other, we know what it’s like to get started and we can help each other by saying this is what I tried or learned. We get it and each other, and don’t have to explain too much.”

McMahon, Cochran and Seiwald all started their businesses within the same six-month period. Two years later, Matthews opened her distillery. “I know Loren knows equipment and she’s now helping me because space is a challenge,” McMahon says. “Everything is right here. It’s on-site rather than off in a manufacturing plant.”

Distinctive Products

4 Craft Women Carol Cochran copy

Fort Collins is home to more than 20 craft brewers and has embraced the craft beer movement for at least 25 years. “We didn’t start it, but we are carrying on the tradition,” Cochran says. “Craft brewing is such a great thing and unlike any other industry because we want people to succeed. If it’s your life’s passion, we want you to succeed.”

Cochran and her husband, Tim, are always at Horse & Dragon, willing to be an oasis for and help entrepreneurs and future distillers to gather their thoughts or be inspired. “You can come in and say, ‘I’m thinking of doing this or that,’ and almost always find an owner and manager at the spur of the moment,” Carol Cochran says.

“Fort Collins has grown and is distinct in how good the beers are,” Matthews notes. “Because of that collaboration, brewers have pushed each other to make it better and better.”

“Carol is so humble about it, but beer in the community is so powerful and it’s awesome to have her with us,” McMahon says.

Brewers are honest with each other about the flaws they taste, Cochran says. “The brewer wants to know and the other brewers want you to know,” she adds.

Elevation 5003 Distillery is a grain-to-bottle distillery that was born from Matthews’ passion for brewing and distilling. Matthews worked in the brewing industry for 15 years before deciding to follow her dreams.

“We are bottlers using local ingredients,” she says. “We have used local malts from malt houses in northern Colorado and used juniper berries foraged in the neighborhood in some of our batches.” Elevation 5003 Distillery’s spirits include Narrow Road Vodka, Lunarshine Corn Whiskey, Timber Ridge Gin and Franklin Coffee Liqueur. “We do trial bottles,” Matthews notes. “I picked up Palisade, Colo., peaches that I had put in a whiskey bottle and just found it the other day. It’s fantastic and just because I left it alone.”

4 Craft Women Jenifer Seiwald and Loren Matthews copyJennifer Seiwald and her husband, Rodney, opened the doors to Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar and Pub in 2012. Home of Summit Hard Cider, Scrumpy’s started out as a hallway and a small fermentation room. The tap house recently tripled in size after a four-month renovation that expanded it into the neighboring, recently vacated space.

“I have 49 rotating taps and can carry everyone’s product,” Seiwald says. “The term ‘scrumpy’ is defined as cider made from stolen apples, quickly fermented with a high alcohol content.” The Seiwalds also own and operate Summit, the cidery, and last year acquired Branch Out Cider. “By acquiring Branch Out Cider last summer, we have been able to reduce excess waste in the Fort Collins community by harvesting undesirable apples that would normally be thrown out, in return creating a beautiful product,” Seiwald says. “To further the project, we have a USDA grant for a mobile juicing unit to harvest farmers’ rejected and ugly apples, cherries, peaches and other fruits.”

McMahon founded Blue Skies Winery in 2013 and three years later changed the company name to Lost Prairie Winery. With a storefront in downtown Fort Collins, the company prides itself on being part of the Old Town community and the only winery in town. “I make everything here,” McMahon says. “I don’t crush grapes, but I do everything else in the back here. Space is a challenge and I’m working on that. I get juice from northern California, but it is still Colorado-made wine. It’s pretty well received and I’m always available to answer questions.”

Moving forward, 4 Craft Women will continue to focus on giving back to the community while building each other up to succeed in their individual crafts.

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