Behind the Brewer

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Inside Mountain Tap brewery in Steamboat Springs, CO.
Inside Mountain Tap brewery in Steamboat Springs, CO.

Mountain Tap Brewery’s Rich Tucciarone

Ski bum to sudsmeister. That’s the storyline for Mountain Tap Brewery co-founder Rich Tucciarone, for whom a chance meeting with a fellow ski bum led to a 20-year brewing career with Breckenridge Brewery, Hawaii’s Kona and, here in Steamboat, Mountain Tap Brewery downtown. Here, he chimes in on all things suds, Steamboat and even surfing.

Swillin’: What’s your favorite Mountain Tap beer?

Tucciarone: That’s like asking to choose my favorite child, which I guess is why we only have one. Oftentimes, it depends on my mood and activity prior. After a mountain bike ride, Passionate Pedal, Locals’ Lager or Chasing Sunset are tough to beat. 

Side story about the name Chasing Sunset. We’d brewed a refreshing, dry-hopped golden ale shortly after we opened in summer 2016 and hadn’t thought of a name, but suddenly the beer was done fermenting and just about ready to tap. We were exhausted from working and, in a creative name drought, I forced a brief sanity mountain bike ride on Emerald late in the afternoon—the day before we were scheduled to tap it. I was zoning out on the climb not noticing the rapidly waning daylight when I realized I should head down quickly while there was still some light, literally “chasing sunset.” With meals or after a brew day I like either Locals Lager or one of our IPAs. Around the campfire you can’t beat a tasty sipper like Paddlers Porter, Cliffed Out Imperial Stout or MacaRUM. We typically have Locals Lager and Picking Hops IPA on tap at home with an occasional seasonal like Summer Heat Ginger Wheat or Paddlers. Hmmm…now you’ve gotten me thirsty.

How is Mountain Tap different from Kona?

It’s above sea level, so that adds some complexity to brewing with a lower boiling point at altitude and also managing carbonation levels and beer dispensing. We’re also quite a bit smaller than Kona; we brew 500-ish barrels of beer each year (1 barrel = 2 kegs), which is pretty small compared with the 300,000 barrels of Kona beer we were brewing. And Kona brews much more than that now. Community and activity-wise, however, there are a lot of similarities—and the small town “aloha spirit” of Hawaii definitely exists in Steamboat. Steamboat is colder, of course, but has better skiing than Kona (although we did get to ski on Mauna Kea). And thanks to the Yampa River, both offer surfing.

Rich Tucciarone SUP surfing the A wave of the Yampa river in Steamboat Springs, CO
Rich Tucciarone SUP surfing the A-Wave on the Yampa river in downtown Steamboat Springs, CO.

What do you like about Steamboat?

What’s not to like? The community is awesome and the abundance of activities makes multi-sport days often the norm rather than the exception.

What surf sup do you ride?

The Hala Milligram is my favorite go-to, although the Hala Peno is super fun, too. During lower flow my 8’6” Hala Atcha gets the job done and also is a great downriver board.

How sweet is it to have the A Wave right next to the brewery, and how often do you get out?

A-wave? Shhhh. As often as possible. It was my COVID daily sanity surf last spring. I had some great, exciting solo sessions during spring snowstorms and hailstorms. One day last spring while surfing, I actually had to dodge a pumpkin and then a large tree trunk that were careening downriver at the wave. It’s also cool to see large trout cruise underneath you.

Any quirks about the wave?

Not too many quirks—except for the folks looking at you from the bridge—but above around 2,100 cfs it tends to be not as clean, loses shape and gets a bit flushy. The small eddy also disappears so swim hard river right when you fall off or we’ll see you at the library.

Favorite Steamboat sports?

Skiing, mountain biking, SUP surfing, camping, BBQing and drinking good beer.

Favorite mountain bike trail?

Like our beers, it’s hard to pick just one fave, but I really enjoy the riding on Buff, especially Grouse. I also really love some of the more remote riding in North Routt and, of course, the Divide Ride is always fun too. Wendy and I try to ride “Ears to beers” at least once per summer.

Mountain Tap private gondola cars
Brewer Rich Tucciarone sips a brewski in one of the gondolas Mountain Tap invested in to help with social distancing during COVID.ies private gondola cars.

How popular are those Killington gondo cars and plan on keeping them for summer?

We’re vetting a few options for a summer home for them and will probably move them sometime in May. But don’t worry, they’ll be back in the fall. They’ve been hugely popular and we’ve had many repeat guests. A few families regularly “press glass” about 15 minutes before we open on weekends to secure their gondy and the online reservations were pretty booked up most of the winter.

What is Mountain Tap looking forward to this summer?

Cans! We’re eagerly awaiting the delivery of a small, portable canning line and will be packaging a few of our favorite brews starting this spring. Mountain Tap beer in cans is going to take camping to a whole new level – CAN-ping!

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