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Sean Johnson standing in the brewing laboratory beside steel kettles.

Cheers! Brewing Program Taps into Local Partnership to Sell Beer

Yetters Brewing Company and UNC’s Brewing Laboratory Science program team up to brew and sell new craft beer — Northern Colorado Brewhouse launches first flight April 24 on campus

Students in the University of Northern Colorado’s Brewing Laboratory Science program have been making beer at the microbrewery on campus for seven years — but without a liquor license to sell the product, about 95% of what they created literally went down the drain.   

That's changing though, thanks to a new collaboration between the university and one of Greeley’s professional local brewers. It's a partnership that was formed after a series of conversations that started, quite fittingly, over a beer.  

Sean Johnson, UNC’s Brewing Laboratory Science program manager, was enjoying a beer at Yetters Brewing Company last fall when he asked owner Dan Yetter how he made his small batch, one-barrel system work in a brewery that was offering 12 beers on tap. 

“When Dan said he had to brew multiple times a week to keep up with demand, I asked him if he’d be interested in leasing the brewery space at UNC. The alternative is that our brewery continues to brew beer that goes to waste,” said Johnson. 

Considering that UNC’s seven-barrel microbrewery was seven times larger than what he was currently using, Yetter was interested. He began leasing UNC’s brewing facilities in January and began brewing in the lab with Johnson in March. The agreement provides a modest but creative funding stream for the university, more brewing capacity for Yetter and the liquor license necessary to sell the beer brewed on campus to the public. 

“This was a win-win situation where Dan was looking for a larger system to brew on and we were looking to use our brewing space practically — and in a way that would benefit our students,” said Johnson. 

Northern Colorado Brewhouse blue text on white background.

All the beer produced under the collaborative effort will bear the name Northern Colorado Brewhouse. Their first flight — an American lager, amber ale, pale ale and Belgian blonde — will be released to the public on April 24 at a special Meet the Brewer event at the University Center’s Burger & Co.  

Plans are also underway to release current and future beers to area restaurants and tap houses. The new location of Yetters Brewing Company at 1011 9th Ave. in downtown Greeley, which Yetter hopes to have open in the next several weeks, will also house a permanent taproom for all Northern Colorado Brewhouse beers. Additionally, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of collaboration beers and Northern Colorado Brewhouse merchandise will help support the Brewing Laboratory Science program.  

“I’m most excited that our facility is finally making beer for the public and that we get to show people in the northern Colorado area about this space that's been tucked away that nobody really knew existed,” said Johnson. “It's been a long journey to get to this point.”  

For Johnson, who was a junior Chemistry student when he enrolled in UNC’s first brewing class back in 2014 and then became a member of the brewing program staff in 2017, the change signals progress for the program and its potential to expand valuable, real-world learning opportunities for students across the university. 

Opened in 2016, the university’s brewery, located in Parsons Hall, has been the laboratory where students in the brewing program gain hands-on experience learning about the chemistry and science behind quality control and quality assurance in the beer brewing industry. Until now, students only brewed beer with the intent of analyzing it, evaluating its vital statistics — flavor, carbonation, color, bitterness and alcohol by volume. 

Now, according to Johnson, brewing beer with the intent to sell it to the public will give students a much broader perspective, providing them with new hands-on experiences in a vital part of the beer industry – the manufacturing-to-market cycle. 

“If I’m going to help my students get a career in the industry, I have to get them in the industry,” said Johnson. “That’s part of the reason why the brewing program has always required an internship. But there’s something about having somebody on site who is actually running a business making and selling beer, versus somebody who’s just lecturing about it. There’s a lot of value to being able to bounce ideas off someone else who does this full time.” 

Johnson said that under the new agreement, Northern Colorado Brewhouse is essentially owned by Yetters, but the partnership provides students with a new opportunity to collaborate with Yetter on beers he plans to release to the public.   

“Previously, the only feedback our students received on the beer they made came from me and the other students in the class,” said Johnson. “Now, they’ll be able to get that feedback from a much larger group. And they’ll be able to add that experience and those beers they make to their resume.” 

Because the beer industry crosses over into many different fields of study, Johnson is already thinking about opportunities for students across the university outside his own program, such as Graphic Design, Marketing and Business students. 

“It doesn’t matter what your field of study is or what you do for a job, there are a lot of people who like craft beer, especially in Colorado. It’s not only multidisciplinary from the business side of things, it’s multidisciplinary in regard to who enjoys it.” 

Sean Johnson and Dan Yetters standing and talking in the brewery.

Sean Johnson (left) gives Dan Yetter a tour of UNC's brewing facilities.

A local to northern Colorado, Yetter has been home brewing all his life and brewing professionally for over 10 years, first in Guatemala and for the past four years in Greeley. He opened his first Greeley brewery, Green Earth Brewing Company in 2018 before renaming it Yetters Brewing Company in 2021. He said the opportunity to brew on a larger system was a big draw, but it wasn’t the only thing he found appealing about this new arrangement. 

“I’m looking forward to working with students,” said Yetter. “It’s always more fun to have people around, watching them learn and get excited about the process of brewing beer. I’m excited to collaborate with the students on new recipes and see what they come up with. And I’m really hoping that Northern Colorado Brewhouse [beer] is not just in my own taproom but in other places around the city, so people in Greeley can start having more interaction with the university.” 

But students beware, although Yetter is confident and comfortable when he speaks about how fun and creative brewing beer can be, he doesn’t appear to be someone content with taking the easy road. His favorite beer to brew is a light lager or pilsner — because it’s a difficult style to brew with the correct flavor profile. 

“When you make a stout, you can make a lot of mistakes and still come up with a pretty good beer. Pilsners are finicky, though,” said Yetter. “But when you make a good pilsner, and it’s clear and it tastes good and it’s crisp, you’re like, ‘Yes! I did this right.’ It doesn’t hide anything. A pilsner is going to tell you.” 

While a pilsner isn’t on the lineup of beers just yet for the Northern Colorado Brewhouse, people will be able to sample the new brand’s first releases in the coming months.  

The inaugural flight premiers at the Meet the Brewer event at the University Center’s Burger & Co. on Wednesday, April 24, from 4 – 7 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature a $15 dinner special, which includes an entrée and a flight, as well as merchandise giveaways.  

Johnson is also working with High Brau Taphouse on a tap takeover during their UNC Jazz Night on April 26, and Tightknit Brewing Co. will feature two beers on tap the week of graduation, April 29 through May 4, with a special discount for UNC students.    

For more information about the collaboration or future beer releases, follow Northern Colorado Brewhouse @nocobrewhouse or UNC’s Brewing Laboratory Sciences program at @unco_brewing on Instagram.  

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