No rules, no frills – just beer
Anarchy Brewing Co. opens on the south side of Durango
by Jonathan Romeo
Matt Sullivan, better known to friends and neighbors as Sully, spent years helicoptering into search and rescue missions, charging into burning buildings to fight fires and working in emergency rooms.
But it wasn’t until he decided to start his own brewery at age 51 that he knew the feeling of a true adrenaline rush.
“I’ve been in the worst conditions, and I was never scared,” he said. “But this was pretty scary. It’s all on me now.”
Sully just last week held the soft opening for Durango’s newest place to grab a craft beer – Anarchy Brewing Co., located at 225 East 8th Ave., in the same commercial strip as Macho’s south.
Durango boasts five local breweries, but Anarchy (now its sixth) has found its own niche in the craft-brewing scene. Spartan in nature, Anarchy offers no food or frills – just some seats at the bar or picnic tables, a couple of specialized batches of homemade beer, and always, some punk rock music on the stereo.
“Hopefully we’ll have some live music,” Sully said.
After serving 22 years as a firefighter in Albuquerque, Sully moved to Durango in 2015 and joined Flight for Life (the folks who save you when you’ve had a bad accident in the backcountry or require emergency medical transport via helicopter).
He spent the last year and a half, however, as an emergency room technician at Mercy, dealing with the madness of the COVID-19 pandemic, among all the other stresses that come with working in the ER.
“It was exhausting,” he said. “And having been a paramedic for 30 years, I was just tired.”
A lover of beer, Sully had been brewing his own batches ever since his early 20s growing up in Albuquerque. He never found a calling within the traditional arts, but with brewing he found a creative outlet. His friends, the lucky recipients of his creations, would always nudge him to open his own brewery. And he’d always give the usual excuses: no money, no time.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused the upheaval of so many peoples’ lives and careers, changed all that. He quit his job at Mercy, cashed in his 401k and went all in on running his own brewery.
“I decided it was time to live my dream,” he said. “And if you’re going to swim, you better jump all the way in. There’s no half-doing it.”
Sully knew a few things from the start: he wanted to begin small, be a spot for locals, ideally located off Main Avenue, and ooze the spirit of punk rock. On the beverage front, his forte is brewing small-batch, high-alcohol beer. He hopes to work up to five to seven barrels with about 10 beers on tap in constant rotation.
“Beer and I have a good relationship,” he said. “So we just feel each other out.”
The atmosphere of Anarchy Brewing Co. was just as important. A punk rocker and skater at heart, Sully wanted the space to serve as an ode to the music he loves – like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Flogging Molly and Social Distortion. Inside, it’s barebones, with no shiny steel tanks and no real rules to speak of (Anarchy allows people to bring their own food, as well as the big Durangoan prerequisite, dogs).
At the soft opening Friday, one friend and patron at the bar remarked it felt just like drinking beer in Sully’s garage, albeit a bigger garage now. And, like the song of a siren, interested people walking and biking by saw beer, music, crowds and started to pop their curious, thirsty heads in.
Sully said Durango’s brewing community has been more than welcoming, offering advice and even equipment. “It feels like a brotherhood,” he said.
Bill Carver, co-owner of Carver Brewing Co., said he wasn’t surprised to hear of the support offered to Sully and Anarchy.
Around the time craft breweries emerged in the 1980s, Carver said the industry was dominated by large, national companies, which fostered a sort of brotherhood and friendly competition among the independently owned brewers.
“When the little brewers came along, we all banded together because we were small,” Carver said. “I think that ‘watching out for each other’ feeling has been maintained all these years, even though the number of breweries has grown a lot.”
Scott Bickert, owner of Animas Brewing Co., said he felt the support when he started in 2014.
“I think back in the day, before I got here, they coined the term ‘coop-petition,’” he said. “They were here for me when I opened and first moved to town.”
Durango’s brewery scene has seen some shake up in recent years.
Within the past few years, mainstays Durango Brewing Co. and BREW Pub & Kitchen closed. A spot called Chainless Brewing Co. opened in the former Durango Brewing Co. location, but closed abruptly and without notice recently. A new brewpub, called Durango Beer & Ice Co., appears to have opened in the same spot.
Regardless, breweries all over face a challenging recovery from the past year after the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw numerous shut downs and limitations on capacity. Now, in what feels like the back end of the pandemic, restaurants and bars everywhere are suffering from staffing shortages.
Sully, for his part, is optimistic that as long as he offers good beer, and has the support of friends and neighbors, he’s on the right track. The steady stream of customers during the soft opening certainly was an encouraging sign, and he hopes to have a grand opening in about two weeks.
“It always comes back to beer,” he said.