- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Stepping into Todd Adams’ steel building at the foot of Sheep Mountain is like walking into a mad scientist’s eccentric laboratory.

Or maybe it’s the sort of sanctuary all crafty types would dream of - if they could dream in such idiosyncratic fashion as the brewer of Sheep Mountain.

The front room seems normal enough, with bikes on racks, an ATV and a Medicine Bow map pinned to the wall. Hook right into the next room, though, and you’ll note a drum set alongside ceremonial “Nyabinghi” bongos; a portrait of Jah, Rastafarian for God; and a bar built by Adams - three brews on tap; frothy beer mug lights festooning the ceiling; a chandelier fashioned of a metal keg; deejay equipment; a walk-in fermenting room; big black speakers nestled in corners; and, of course, the room’s centerpiece: a gravity-fed brewing tree, laden with a tank, mash tun and brew kettle.

Adams is the owner of Sheep Mountain Brewery, LLC, which he started this year. After getting his license in January, he put his first beer on tap at O’Dwyer’s Public House in March.

In mid-June, his Hoppy Kid Goat Draft Pale Ale won the Fremont Toyota Lander Brewfest Grand Champion award.

Adams proudly admits to his various businesses and hobbies. They include sewing teepees, drumming, brewing, biking, swimming and tending to his greenhouse, where he and his wife, Ann Ward, grow coffee shrubs, banana plants and a leafy vegetable called callaloo - among other botanical curiosities.

“My wife says I’m crazy, and she’s probably right,” said Adams as he stood in his doorway. “But one, day you’ll die, and then you can lie down and rest.”

Adams owns three small businesses: Wyoming Sew Works, where he makes teepees; Sheep Mountain Brewery; and an environmental consultant business for the oil and gas industry, which he calls his “real job.”

As incongruous as Adams’ activities might seem, a common thread runs throughout - binding his brewing method and brand with his Rastafarian-inspired philosophy of self-reliance.

Adams flew to Jamaica in 1994 without much of a plan, but with a bike and a buddy named Mike Lowham, former owner of the Pedal House.

“We took our bikes down, dragged them outside of the airport, put them together and took off riding,” Adams said. “We camped in people’s yards and stuff - which, in hindsight, was a little risky. But it worked.”

They pedaled down back roads and stayed away from resorts. They met friendly Jamaicans. They jammed to smooth Nyabinghi rhythms. People fed them strange and succulent fruits unheard of in the United States. They sat on the ground in turmeric farms, leaving un-washable yellow stains on their pants. At some point, they ended up near Nine Mile - Bob Marley’s birth place.

“We befriended some Rastafarians there,” Adams said. “They took us out on their farms. And I just took to it. They’re really nice people.”

A sixth-generation Wyomingite, Adams continued his studies of Rastafarianism when he got back to Laramie. He identified with the religion’s do-it-yourself attitude, admiring how the Rastafarians often worked with their hands.

“Basically, I have their philosophy,” he said. “It’s a philosophy of self-reliance.”

Many of the items in Adams’ brewery he made by himself or with friends, including the drums, the bar, the beer and the brewing tree. This is in keeping with his entrepreneurial nature, fortified with self-reliant aspects of his Rasta philosophy.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 10 years old,” he said. “I started out mowing lawns. A lot of kids do that, but I’ve always been in the deep entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve always had troubles with bosses, because I have my own ideas.”

Adams also continued brewing when he returned from Jamaica, something he’s done for 29 years. He brewed for the Library Sports Grille and Brewery for 13 years, and as a hobbyist before that.

His first batch was an English bitter.

“It was drinkable,” he said. “But what was nice was having your first buzz off of something you made yourself. And then watching your friends get a buzz off something you made, too - it’s kind of satisfying in its own way.”

Not all batches went well. He recalls an early brew that was fermenting in Lowham’s apartment.

The building burnt down, taking their beer with it.

That was his most unsuccessful batch “without a doubt,” Adams said. “I’ve poured a lot out, but that one went up in smoke.”

Adams decided to start Sheep Mountain Brewery because he loves the chemistry, the process and sharing his beer with people.

A friend drew his Sheep Mountain logo, inspired by the mountain at his backdoor. The logo depicts a shaggy sheep with a Rasta-style tam hat.

People at the Lander brewfest asked him about the sheep.

“They were like, ‘What’s with the hat?’” Adams said. “Well, have you ever seen a feral sheep that’s never been shorn? It’s got dreads everywhere.”

Adams gets his water from the Laramie River Water Treatment Plant off Highway 230. He can produce four barrels a week out of his brewery. He constantly makes his India Red Ale and his Red Eye, an Irish amber ale. He cycles other beers out with the seasons, including an Oktoberfest, a nutbrown, a Maibock and the Hoppy Kid Goat Pale Ale.

With each batch, he tries to impart his special touch.

“You can give five brewers the same recipe, and all five are going to taste different,” he said. “It all comes down to your process - the stages through your process, the way you like to ferment and the temperatures you use to ferment.”

He’s of the opinion that India pale ales nowadays suffer from a case of runaway hoppiness.

He tempers the bitterness in his with a touch of caramel.

“It works great,” Adams said. “You get the hops right at the beginning, then it kind of washes your palette off and that bitter taste is not lingering in your mouth.”

Presently, Sheep Mountain beers are available at O’Dwyer’s. In the future, Adams is looking to expand to other establishments in Albany County, his licensed distribution area.

Adams maintains his ties with Jamaica, where he and his wife own a small farm that they visit several times a year.

Brewing at the foot of the Sheep, he enters a Zen-like state.

“I don’t really like people in here when I’m doing it, because there’s so much going on and everything has to happen in this timed fashion,” Adams said. “The distraction causes chaos. I just like to be in my little zone, keep going and make it all happen.”

If you do happen to catch him mid-brewing session, he’s likely to have reggae music blaring so loud he won’t notice you’ve entered.

“It’s the satisfaction of the hard work,” Adams said of his craft. “When you’re done, you get this product that’s either good or bad, and it really reflects on how much love you put into the beer. It really does. It’s a lot of love you put into it, and that’s what makes it what it is.”


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, https://www.laramieboomerang.com

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