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Brewery branches out with tree-themed beer to support local climate group

A golden orange beer with foam in a pint glass sits on a wooden table.
Mountain Tap Brewery
The ReTree Spruce IPA beer by Mountain Tap Brewery debuted last fall at their location in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The owners say it’s a medium- to full-bodied beer that is not too bitter and has a strong spruce aroma.

A brewery in the Mountain West is partnering with a climate organization on a tree-themed beer – all with the bigger goal of saving trees.

Mountain Tap Brewery in Steamboat Springs has made an IPA with Southern Colorado spruce tips – the tiny, fresh buds growing on the trees. The owners say it’s a medium- to full-bodied beer that is not too bitter and has a strong spruce aroma.

“It's not an over-the-top hoppy IPA, so it really allows the spruce to shine through,” co-owner Rich Tucciarone said. “The aroma specifically from the spruce is more reminiscent of like pine, a little bit of mint, some grassy notes, and some people can pick up a little bit of melon.”

Two volunteers wearing dark rain jackets crouch smiling in dried grass with yellow tall brush behind them.
Yampa Valley Sustainability Council
Two volunteers pose for a picture by a newly planted tree near the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs in 2022. The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's ReTree Project has helped mitigate rising water temperatures and protect riparian areas with the canopy cover of thousands of trees.

The spruce tips are gathered in a sustainable way, according to Tucciarone. Mountain Tap works with a company that harvests evenly and reports data about forest health to organizations like the U.S. Forest Service.

“They spread out their geographic regions so they don't just pick them all from the trees that are closest to them. They go deep into the forest and really not very populated areas at all at different elevations,” Tucciarone said.

A dollar from every beer purchased will go toward the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council – a nonprofit geared toward climate action and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One of the council's main projects is ReTree, which started 14 years ago. It relies on volunteers to help replant narrowleaf cottonwood trees along the Yampa River to lower water temperatures. Since 2019, they’ve replanted nearly 3,000 trees.

“I think just having this partnership with Mountain Tap increases visibility for the work that we do,” said Kate Brocato, the council’s communications and program manager. “You can put all of the information you want in the world in front of somebody, but until they feel a personal connection with it, it's not going to resonate with them. Beer is something that we can all come together around.”

Ryan Messinger, the natural climate solutions project manager for the council, agrees.

“You can drink a beer in a million different places, but Mountain Tap is a place where you can drink a beer and feel like you're giving back at the same time,” he said. “I think it's one of the reasons why the community really supports them as much as they do.”

A group of people sit indoors around a rustic wooden table holding up glasses of beer in cheers.
Mountain Tap Brewery
Visitors raise their glasses and pose for a picture inside Mountain Tap Brewery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. One dollar of every ReTree Spruce IPA purchased will go back toward funding the council's climate action projects.

The partnership started last fall. Since the spruce beer was one of the brewery’s best-sellers, it was brought back again this year.

Tucciarone said beer production relies on this type of climate work.

“Beer is roughly 95% water, and 40% of the world's usable water comes from forests. So it's pretty important to protect that,” Tucciarone said.

Mountain Tap Brewery is not the first to make a spruce-tipped beer. Breweries in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming have all sold this type of beer as well.

The ReTree Spruce IPA beer will be reintroduced at Mountain Tap at an event Friday, and will be on tap for as long as it lasts. To get a taste of this beer, you’ll have to visit the brewery or one of the few local Steamboat Springs shops that sell it.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the General Assignment Reporter and Back-Up Host for KUNC, here to keep you up-to-date on news in Northern Colorado — whether I'm out in the field or sitting in the host chair. From city climate policies, to businesses closing, to the creativity of Indigenous people, I'll research what is happening in your backyard and share those stories with you as you go about your day.