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The Springs' newest brewery features design-your-own beers 

Side Dish

A special occasion

Think of The Occasional Brew (theoccasionalbrew.com) as a beer equivalent to Manitou Springs' D'Vine Wine, the store that allows customers to custom blend and label their own vinos. But technically, TOB's the newest brewery to open locally, even if customers interact with it quite differently than they do a typical taphouse.

TOB's small tasting bar and brew area actually occupy one of the garages attached to head brewer/co-owner Chris Crump's residence. (Yes, he had to apply for a variance.) There, he holds "brew-sultations" with clients looking to design their own brew for anything from a small office party to a large-scale wedding or event — from four cases (96 beers) to 25-plus cases, off his 2½-barrel system.

"I call it y(our) beer," he says. "We're brewing it, we manage the whole process, and you get to enjoy the benefits of handing out your own custom beer."

You could also just co-create your own beer for fun, or "clone" a favorite beer by essentially duplicating its recipe. Crump, a brewer of five years and engineer and Air Force reservist of 14 years, earned a gold medal from the 2014 Ska Pro-Am Homebrew Competition. The 33-year-old also claims that in a blind taste test, his friends preferred his version of Deschutes Brewery's coveted and complex The Abyss imperial stout to the real thing.

The cost, including a tasting (samples of beers like his coffee-chocolate breakfast stout, coconut porter or high-ABV Atomic Hop), consultation, label design and approval, and even instruction if you care to assist and learn how "to brew at a professional level," starts at $2.79 a bottle. But it generally drops from there (less than $2/bottle past 12 cases). The price can rise if special items or ingredients are required, such as oak barrels for aging.

He recommends a six-week lead time for basic 5- to 7-percent-ABV beers, or as much as four months for a barrel-aged brew. In the future, he may sell kegs to local drink houses, but for now, your only shot at sampling TOB is to BYOB (build your own beer).

Food farewells

If you've missed the news on our IndyBlog, a number of restaurants have closed their doors recently, most of them permanently.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., phantomcanyon.com) is undergoing a significant kitchen renovation, but hopes to be back open by mid-February, while Wild Ginger has closed at 27 Manitou Ave., but says it'll eventually reopen in a new location after a break.

Those not coming back, to the best of our knowledge: Icheeban (405 N. Union Blvd.), Three Delights Caribbean Grill (4747 Flintridge Drive), Spice of Life Café (727 Manitou Ave.), PJ's Bistro (819 Manitou Ave.) and sister outfit the European Cafe (935 Manitou Ave.), and finally, Smiley's Bakery and Café (323 N. Tejon St.).

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