Finding what inspires you can take many directions and time. For Carissa Miller and her husband, Chad, a passion to create things with their hands was the driving force behind brewing beer. But not just any brew. Think handmade, small-batch red ales.
In an era of fast-paced, high volume craft beer-making to satisfy demand and generate profits, taking years to allow an artisanal beer to age in oak barrels is unusual. “We might be the only self-funded brewery due to our patient aging process,” said Carissa. “This has set us apart from the rest of the industry which puts money first and beer second. We want to build our reputation on one brew and not get lost in a sea of brews.”
To build their dream business, Carissa and Chad, along with Chad’s brother and co-owner, Branden, took a few years to develop Black Shirt Brewing Company using their own funds. When they exhausted their reserves and were turned down by banks for a loan, they were referred to Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) in 2013. “Without CEF’s assistance and belief that we would be great, we would not have been able to open the doors to our dream,” recalled Carissa. “The impact on our business is almost unmeasurable. There was nowhere else to go as a startup.” They also received accounting and legal help from CEF’s Business Acceleration Services (BAS) team of consultants.
Now celebrating their fourth anniversary, the trio overseeing Black Shirt Brewing Company’s growth has hired 23 people, expanded their brewing operations, begun packaging their product for distribution, and started the process of adding a second location. The business was also the focus of the documentary, Crafting A Nation, and named Westword’s Best of Denver 2016 “Best Taproom – Patio”, along with being awarded 2nd place for the “Colorado Beer of the Year” competition by Elevation Outdoors and recognized as one of the “Essential Breweries in Colorado” by Eater Denver.
People need a partner to start a business and Carissa found that in CEF. “Starting a business is one of the hardest things you will ever do; it is also one of the most rewarding things you will ever experience,” she said. “CEF gives motivated and passionate people a chance to succeed and is a great partner to have along for the ride!”