We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Bell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
This is probably the most challenging part about running your own company. When I first entered brewing there was no amount of work that was too much. And when we opened CTA it was the same way. Thirteen years later I have certainly slowed down a little and tried to prioritize other things in life. These days it is very difficult to separate yourself from work no matter how much you prioritize work life balance. I have definitely gotten better about it over the years, but when your phone buzzes and it’s related to the business that you own, it’s really difficult to say, “Oh I will get to that later.” And in some cases you don’t even have that choice. For the service industry, especially during COVID, there are things that simply cannot wait. Before COVID, we had been open long enough and had a staff that was experienced enough that I could turn off my email notifications, or leave my phone at home or in the hotel while on vacation. This was something I really tried to work on over the years, because no matter how much I love work and my business, there are other elements to life that I value. And being constantly interrupted can be a challenge to balance.
What should our readers know about your business?
Call to Arms has always been about creating a place that you could get great beer and also feel like you were with family. We have always strived to take the beer seriously, but not ourselves. We have hold ourselves to high quality standards and have never been shy about dumping product that is not up to snuff. Taking your product and process seriously does not mean you can’t also have fun doing it. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I would argue that approaching any career too seriously can have the adverse effect. COVID is the perfect example. The pandemic created a serious challenge and we have to take it seriously, which Call to Arms certainly does. But that does not mean that we can’t find other ways to lighten the mood. Our rules and our cleanliness are top notch, and we do not bend the rules. That can get frustrating for a customer, I fully understand that. We approached the pandemic the same way as we would any other challenge. We grabbed the bull by the horns found solutions and constantly asked ourselves, “Where is the comedy in this?” Typically our approach to marketing and our beer names are funny pop culture references, usually timely ones. We began canning during COVID and all of a sudden we had a canvas. Which was new and exciting. We released beers with names like: “No Touching” and “Sorry Folks the Park’s Closed”. Some of these are deep cuts, and without the visual aspect people don’t get it. Man, sometimes WITH the visual aspect people don’t get it, haha. But I digress. I guess my point is, everything is extremely challenging and somber right now, we are all aware of that. I can tell you that if I had approached every decision with that somber attitude, the last 10 months would have been infinitely more difficult. Customers want to laugh, they want to forget about the issues that are happening, I know I do. And frankly, I think that’s what we strive for normally. To have a place where people can come and forget about the world for a second and laugh over a great beer for an hour or two.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a funny question. I moved to Colorado in 2004. Since then the state has exploded in growth and the well kept secret is out. So, I am not sure I want to add any fuel to that fire. But since this is voyage Denver…. 7 days: Must Eats: My Brother’s Bar (No my brother does not own a bar that is the name, if you are in Denver and you like burgers, do no miss a double Johnny Burger). Hops and Pie: One of the most impressive beer line ups in the city. Forget, “I have a hundred draft handles”, this is “I have 25 handles and 25 of them you want.” Pizza is fantastic, sandwiches are out of this world. Can’t miss the Detroit Pie, or The Crunchwrap. And never underestimate the specials. Must Drinks: Lakeview Lounge: On the edge of Denver and a fantastic dive bar. Breweries (There is an ocean of good beer but here are a few): Bierstadt Lager House, Cannonball Creek Brewing, Comrade Brewing, and if you’re headed west, Westbound and Down Brewing. Must See’s: Rocky Mountain National Park: I’ve been hiking to Alpine lakes there for 15 years. I just love it. Avoid the I-70 corridor. Do a little research, Colorado is a huge state with more to offer than you can imagine.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
That’s a difficult question, because there are huge amount of reasons CTA has been successful over the years. Our staff, family, friends, our amazing community of supporters to name a few. I think if I had to choose one person or thing, it would be my wife. We met right when the brewery opened. She has never known me without CTA, which is a weird thing to think about. It was hard to start dating when I had no days off and worked 60 to 70 hours a week constantly connected. Even when we moved in together we only lived a mile from the brewery so I was always there. But, she has been patient, understanding and supportive all of these years and I owe a lot of CTA’s success to that.