by Cecilia LaFrance
Despite the popularity of craft beer in Denver, Colfax Avenue hosts few of its city’s breweries. Food trucks, in comparison, are a staple. Pairing a brewery with a food truck is only natural. And, for Pasty Republic’s menu fare, it’s a natural marriage. “It’s the perfect bar food: a beer in one hand, a pasty in the other,” says Colin Weiland, general manager, chef, and driver for Pasty Republic.
Weiland waits for customers outside Seedstock Brewery at Lowell Blvd and Colfax Ave. He’s the skeleton crew for the Pasty Republic’s slow season, braving the dark February night in a stocking cap and puffy jacket. “We get by,” he shrugs as the few interior lights flicker with the cycle of the gas generator. “In the summer, it’s hard to keep up.” Once people discover a pasty, that is.
Education is a hurdle. “We’re not wings or tacos,” Weiland says. “People don’t know what pasties are.” The hearty meat and potato pastry pies warming in the oven beside him tempt a bite on the 20-degree February night. Pasty Republic’s founder hails from Cornwall, England, and introduced the 300-year-old recipe in a trendy upper west side Tennyson St. restaurant. The carb-heavy pocket pies were a favorite of miners, Weiland explains, because the compact packaging kept the inner ingredients warm while allowing ease of handheld eating.
Weiland finds the gig a good fit. “I just really like pasties.” He offers a short laugh. “It’s really funny because I have a degree in mining.” The Chicago transplant and former chef moved to Denver in 2012 and eventually looked for more work to supplement his consultant career. “I was like ‘I’ll help, fill in, help the recipe, and you know, get to eat all the pasties I want.” After a year, Weiland’s at the wheel, with plans.
“This is such a unique food. We’re trying to expand and grow the business.” Franchise is a consideration. “Chipotle started here, right?” He’s looking into securing a USDA-approved kitchen, which is required to achieve frozen pasties in ski shops, coffee shops, and stores at a national level. Until then, Weiland takes the truck to breweries, farmers markets, and other events in addition to tending the restaurant and catering end of the business. A standard day requires him and his crew to fill, crimp, and bake 200 pasties. At $9.00 a pasty, the operation is successful.
“I really am enjoying this right now,” Weiland says of his career path. “I’m happy growing a small business into something great.” Plus, he gets free beer at the breweries, free food, and camaraderie with his crew and other food truck vendors. “Food trucks are huge in Denver, and it’s a great culture to be in.” Instead of a competitive environment, he sees support among the other food truck vendors.
Weiland struggles to find a downside to his choice to stray from mining. “I got into mining because its where a lot of jobs are.” A scientist at heart and environmentalist not interested in working for the oil and gas industry, the food truck keeps him from sitting in a lab. But, he may go back to mining someday. With hands tucked into his coat pockets, looking around the sparsely outfitted truck—warming ovens, sink, seat, and counter widow open to the chill, Weiland comes up with only one wish. “I can’t bring my dog on the truck. It’d be nice to have my dog with me.”