Making a Passion Project a Brewery’s Identity

Putting a brewery in an old flight tower is one way to rise above the competition.

Aviation-themed FlyteCo Brewing was started in Denver by a pair of pilots who leaned in heavily to what they knew, starting an aviation themed brewery in 2019 and opening their second location in a former air control tower building.

Beyond making and selling beer, brewery owners Eric Serani and Jason Slingsby have a couple of additional missions for the company: giving the community a place to gather and supporting the flight industry.

With 10% of all proceeds going toward the future of aviation, FlyteCo Brewing has provided many scholarships that help groups that are traditionally underrepresented (low income, women, those moving from military life to commercial pilot life) get their pricy pilot license.

The theme is emphatic and clear, but Serani said the brewery worked to appeal to aviation-focused people, beer-focused people and people just looking for a community gathering spot.

“All of the above!” Serani told Brewer Magazine. “Aviation geeks are naturally drawn to our brand and our iconic locations. Our original location boasts a replica 737 fuselage in which guests can experience a cozy spot to enjoy a tasty beer. The new location, FlyteCo Tower, occupies the former Stapleton International Airport control tower building, which was Denver’s main airport from 1929-1995. The building itself is a magnet to anyone interested in aviation. “Additionally, FlyteCo Tower is a family friendly destination for all with six bowling lanes, 18 holes of mini golf, a full arcade, and delicious eats. At both locations, we strive to be a gathering place for the local community whether or not you love aviation as much as we do. Both spaces open at 7 a.m. serving locally roasted coffee from Queen City and breakfast sandwiches, which makes it a great place to post up with your computer and get some work done during the day.”

Serani said strategic partnerships and their mission of 10% back to aviation have helped set them apart and that working with the community had helped elevate their brand.

“For example, we work with our neighbor Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in a number of ways, including having exhibits on loan at the brewpub,” Serani said. “This introduces an audience to the museum who might not be familiar with them otherwise. 

“We also like to bring big corporate partners on board who can help the causes we care about – for example, we partner with Titos’s Vodka on a cocktail where each one sold, we both donated $1 to aviation scholarships. In addition to those mutually beneficial partnerships, we also have so many partnerships with nonprofits where our only goal is truly to give back. We work with EAA Chapter 43, Stripes to Bars, Colorado Aviation Business Association and other nonprofits to provide scholarships for budding pilots who may not have had the opportunity otherwise.” 

To work with the wide audience, the bar keeps a broad range of styles available on the tap list. “Our goal is to have a little bit of something for everyone,” said Slingsby, who is also the head brewer. “We definitely try to cater to the neighborhood and what they want to see on the menu. This has been consistent since we opened, however as we have grown over the years, we have been able to offer a larger selection and mix in a few more one-off recipes.” 

To relate the beers back to our brand, they try to get creative in the naming process. 

“Plane types, aviation terms, etc. are all on the table,” Slingsby said. “Sometimes the beer gets made first and we discuss what plane/phrase would fit it best. It takes more time than you would think! We also often get suggestions from staff, friends, and regulars where the name ideas are so much fun that we design the beer around it.”

Some of the beers and their names come about pretty organically.

“We planned to take the staff flying as a team building event the first year we were open. After hours of waiting for the weather conditions to improve, we had to call off the flight,” Slingsby said. “Instead of flying, we had the team try our newest beer release. One of our employees commented that we had been “fogged out” of our flight and that has been the name of our most popular Hazy IPA ever since!”

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