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Behind the Scenes at Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, CO

[Photographs: Stevie Caldarola]

The story of Left Hand Brewing Company begins in 1990, when co-founder Dick Doore brewed his first homebrew from a kit he received for Christmas from his brother. Three years later, his obsession with brewing landed him in Colorado, where he and a college friend, Eric Wallace, began to hatch what would eventually become Left Hand Brewing Company.

In 1993 Doore and Wallace founded Indian Peaks Brewing Company. After hunting for a suitable location for the business, they settled on a former sausage factory in Longmont. Soon after settling into their new location, it came to light that the name Indian Peaks was already being used by another brewery for a particular beer. Wallace and Doore then decided to call their brewery Left Hand to honor Arapahoe Chief Niwot and his tribe, who spent the winter in the local area. (The Arapahoe word "Niwot" means left hand/left handed.)

Left Hand Brewing Company opened for business on January 22, 1994. Their first beer was Sawtooth Ale, which remains a strong year-round seller for the brewery. Later that year, Left Hand won a Gold Medal for Sawtooth in the Bitter Category, and a Bronze medal in the Robust Porter Category for their Black Jack Porter at the Great American Beer Festival. No small accomplishment for a new brewery!

In 1998 Left Hand merged with a Denver brewery called Tabernash Brewing. Production doubled, and Left Hand began packaging 12-ounce six packs, in addition to 22-ounce bottles. Tabernash was eventually phased out.

Left Hand continues to grow at an incredible rate. In 2010, the brewery brewed 24,651 barrels of beer, in 2011, that number shot-up to 36,833 barrels. A similar level of growth is expected in 2012, largely fueled by Nitro, the world's first nitrogen pressure-filled bottled beer that does not require a widget (like Guinness.) Nitro is a rich and creamy version of Left Hand's extremely popular Milk Stout.

We had the chance to walk around the brewery a bit and check out what's going on behind the scenes. Join us for a peek in the slideshow.

Left Hand Brewing Company

1265 Boston Avenue, Longmont, CO 80025 (map); lefthandbrewing.com

Tours: Saturday and Sunday 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm, Monday to Friday tours available by appointment only, call 303-772-0258 x 110

Tap Room: Open Monday to Thursday 3:00pm to 8:00pm, Friday 12:00pm to 9:00pm, Saturday 12:00pm to 8:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm to 8:00pm. Growlers and bottled beers are available to go.

About the Author: Lee Williams grew up in Bristol, England and now resides in Denver, Colorado. In 2009 he founded Hoptopia, a beer review website, iPhone and Android app. He is currently penning his first book, titled Beer Lover's Colorado; due for publication in October. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Hoptopia.

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