By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
The craft brewery scene in Fort Collins has inspired many CSU alumni. A few have even opened their own brewpubs. Among those is a fellow who, with several partners, opened Pinthouse Pizza, a craft brewery in Austin, Texas.
Joe Mohrfeld (M.A., ’08), a first-generation college student, grew up in Minnesota and received an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Mankato State, where he was a McNair Scholar. As he searched for graduate programs, an individual he knew had ties to CSU professor Dr. Eric Aoki and suggested Joe consider speech communication, as that discipline “was like philosophy outside academia.”
After visiting our campus, Joe was attracted by the beauty of Colorado. He remembers sitting in the library, looking out a west window and seeing Long’s Peak. He also liked that campus was easily accessible by bicycle. When he was offered a teaching assistantship, that sealed the deal.
Krystal Angelo (B.A., ’06; M.A., ’09), Joe’s wife who also was a first-generation college student, grew up in Berthoud, Colorado. After receiving her A.A. degree, she enrolled at CSU. A friend encouraged her to declare speech communication as a major because it was “a nice bridge to philosophy,” which Krystal enjoyed. She later enrolled in the M.A. program and was awarded a teaching assistant.
Before graduate school, Joe worked in a home-brew shop as well as at a beer distributor in the Twin Cities. Although Joe had planned to become an academic, his love of craft beer blossomed during his master’s program in Fort Collins. He began volunteering at Odell Brewing, which led to a position there. Eventually he became their head brewer. He recalls it being “an exciting time, helping direct craft brewing growth in Fort Collins.”
Krystal worked for Gallegos Sanitation after completing her degrees, followed by a position in the accounting department at Odell. She also helped organize the company’s culture group, which involved creating events for the team.
Then Joe and several buddies from childhood and college established a brewpub in Austin, Texas. A couple of the fellows had MBAs from the University of Texas but were looking to change careers. The others ended up in Texas by various routes. As they talked about their future, they focused on the fact that Austin had a developing craft brewing scene. They needed a brewer for their plans, and Joe fit that bill.
Side note for Rams fans: CSU will kick off the 2024 football season vs. the University of Texas in Austin.
During planning, they recalled Pizza Port in San Diego and thought how great brewpubs that served pizza were for families. Their project became Pinthouse Pizza. Joe argues that some restaurants try to do too much, but the pizza-and-beer model has worked out well for them. Krystal now works for Pinthouse Pizza as well. Currently there are four Pinthouse locations in the Austin area, one of which is a brewpub but does not serve pizza.
Pinthouse Pizza was named Austin’s best brewpub in numerous local publications from 2012 to 2021. Most recently, Pinthouse was voted best brewpub/brewery, best place to drink beer, and best beer (Electric Jellyfish) in 2021 by the Austin Chronicle. Their beers have won numerous awards, including from the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and the Alpha King Challenge.
The couple credits their CSU degrees with playing a role in their success. They recall Dr. Greg Dickinson saying that the department’s graduates should focus on “how to be good people and do good in the world.” Joe and Krystal note that they have met more people in the craft brewing industry that have liberal arts degrees than science or engineering degrees.
They feel what they are doing is innovative and exciting. They work with local farmers and agriculture businesses, and they are committed to sustainability and conservation. The couple clearly love their career path – the Pinthouse Pizza web page features this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Love craft beer?
Register now for the tenth annual Fort Collins Beer Pairing, which will be held Thursday, March 24, on campus at the Lory Student Center.