FlyteCo Brewing: Crafting Beers and Opportunity Equity in Aviation

April 26 was World Pilot’s Day. So, 303 Magazine sat down and held a phone interview with the owners of FlyteCo Brewing in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, as well as FlyteCo Tower in Central Park, to learn about their journey as brewery owners and how their love for the open skies brought them together.

Photo courtesy FlyteCo Brewing

History of FlyteCo’s Conception

Turning 21 means you’re an adult. It also means you can finally legally drink – or even homebrew your own beer. That’s how old Eric Serani, one of three co-owners of FlyteCo Brewing, was when he was given a Mr. Beer kit as a birthday present. While those first few batches weren’t exactly award-winning, receiving the homebrewing kit was all Serani needed to start his journey as a brewer.

While studying engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Serani met Jason Slingsby. They had a lot in common, both with their private pilot’s license and a love for aviation that stemmed from their grandfathers. 

Co-owners Jason Slingsby, Morgan O’Sullivan and Eric Serani. Photo by Dustin Holstein

Serani worked in Seattle for Boeing as an aerospace engineer for a stint and Slingsby worked as a chemical engineer for a startup engineering analytics company. While neither worked commercially as pilots, aviation was a continued interest and played an important role in their lives.

Around the same time Serani moved to Denver, Morgan O’Sullivan was relocating to Denver from Portland, Oregon — as Serani’s new next-door neighbor. So, when Serani began homebrewing at age 21 with Slingsby in the backyard, O’Sullivan was peeking over the fence in curiosity.

“I would poke my head over the fence and see these guys brewing here in the backyard and wanted to know what that was all about,” O’Sullivan said. “They made some really bad beer but were totally stoked on it.”

FlyteCo Brewing co-owners (left to right), Jason Slingsby, Morgan O’Sullivan and Eric Serani. Photo by Dustin Holstein

“I would say our first few batches were, you know, not great. We learned a lot very quickly, but it was the process that was fun. It was the involvement with spending time together and really working towards something,” Slingsby said.

With Slingsby and Serani’s past in engineering, the two began “nerding out over the process” almost immediately. “We quickly went all in and dove into the technical and nerdy side of everything,” Slingsby said. 

They applied their experiences as engineers to their newfound hobby. And soon, that once “really bad beer” started to get better and better. In the matter of a year, Slingsby said they had landed on something they were proud to share and started to feel comfortable experimenting with different styles. 

Co-owners Morgan O’Sullivan and Eric Serani. Photo by Dustin Holstein

“We were controlling every aspect and kind of dialing it in from recipe development to fermentation to the finished product. The feedback that we were getting from the friends that were coming over and drinking our beer for free was that ‘This is as good as the beer that we can go buy. You guys should do something with this,’ and we were crazy enough to take their advice,” O’Sullivan said.

O’Sullivan became the last piece to the puzzle and the catalyst to get things moving on the business end. 

It just happened very naturally in the backyard – making beer, sharing stories, having good times. We kept making beer and giving it to our friends and inviting people over and having barbecues. The process was really fun,” O’Sullivan said. 

It was purely for fun at first, Slingsby said. Eventually, Slingsby and Serani took a trip to Seattle. On the way back to Denver, they were flying Serani’s grandpa’s airplane, a 1946 Aeronca Champ, which “goes about the speed of a car” – maybe even slower – Slingsby recalls looking down at I-80 while flying and seeing the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pass them.

Co-owners Morgan O’Sullivan, Eric Serani and Jason Slingsby. Photo by Dustin Holstein

During a stop on that trip, the two ended up at a hotel happy hour where they began talking with other pilots and an airline mechanic. They shared stories over beers, and the next day, they made the decision to start their own brewery. But it wouldn’t be just any brewery, it would be dedicated to those who love aviation as much as they do. 

In 2019, the first FlyteCo Brewing location opened.  And in August 2022, Serani, Slingsby and O’Sullivan opened their second location, FlyteCo Tower – formerly the Stapleton International Airport control tower building. FlyteCo Tower touts six bowling lanes, 18 holes of mini golf and a full arcade. Additionally, this summer, there will be a separate space with six axe throwing lanes, three golf simulators and ping pong tables.

Co-owners Jason Slingsby, Morgan O’Sullivan and Eric Serani. Photo by Dustin Holstein

“We kind of have to pinch ourselves. You couldn’t have scripted it any better if you tried,” O’Sullivan said. “A small backyard concept born out of passion and a love of aviation. To be given the opportunity to take over a former air traffic control tower of an international airport… You couldn’t have dreamed it up, let alone realized and brought it to life.”

The Beer at FlyteCo Brewing

Slingsby still brews at FlyteCo, even though he wears many other hats as a business owner these days. Up until last year, he was still the only brewer.

“There’s this really fun mix of science and art that goes into [brewing]. From grain to glass, we typically hit 16 to 17 days, but it’s a very involved process most of that time,” Slingsby said.

Photo of Beer
Photo courtesy FlyteCo Brewing

The FlyteCo Tennyson location features 16-20 of their own beers on tap at any given time with a rotation of styles in different seasons. The Tower features 10 beers on tap and is generally the one that sells best at Tennyson. FlyteCo is brewing once a week right now, with a brand-new, never-before-seen beer being released about twice a month.

Charitable Initiatives

What makes FlyteCo Brewing so unique is the philanthropic work of the co-owners. “We’ve tried to consistently give back since we first opened our doors, and we’ve gotten to partner with some pretty amazing organizations,” Slingsby said. “It’s been such an important piece for us to give back and to use our branding and awareness to start supporting other groups. “

When Serani was 16, he received a scholarship from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 43 that helped him finish his pilot’s license. Serani felt indebted to the organization for this – so to this day, FlyteCo donates directly to EAA Chapter 43 and funds some of their pilot scholarships. 10% of their profits also go to local and national aviation-based scholarships.

Photo courtesy FlyteCo Brewing

Serani also actively participates in Chapter 43’s program, Young Eagles, which takes a group of kids up in a small plane for the first time, as well as nonprofit Young Aviators 43, where kids are assigned high-level engineering projects, such as building a full-scale model of the forward third of a B-27 Bomber. That model has been displayed at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and an aviation museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“Young Aviators 43 are actually building an aircraft so that they can have a plane to fly to help further their education and give training to young adults that are on the path to becoming pilots,” O’Sullivan said. “Having access and breaking into that world can be very, very difficult, so we’re here to support that access.”

One of O’Sullivan and Slingsby’s favorite ongoing projects has been with the public charity Stripes to Bars, whose mission is to help military veterans get their start in commercial aviation through scholarship. 

“We thought what a wonderful alignment, so we made fast friends,” O’Sullivan said. “We collaborated and came up with Vets In Jets Cream Ale. We’ve brewed that every year since. $1 of every pint goes directly to fund a scholarship that Stripes to Bars gives out.”

And in August 2022, FlyteCo formally partnered with Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

“Their goal of promoting the future of aviation and generating excitement in ages young and old perfectly aligns with our mission and purpose. A portion of our charitable donations goes directly to the museum to further their pathways programs, which provides access and equity to the younger generations that are interested in getting into the world of aviation,” O’Sullivan said.

In exchange, the two cross-promote their businesses. Displayed at the Tower, you will see some exhibits on loan from Wings Over the Rockies. “Things that would normally be collecting dust in storage are proudly displayed on our walls,” O’Sullivan said.

Co-owners Jason Slingsby, Morgan O’Sullivan and Eric Serani. Photo by Dustin Holstein

“We’ve also seen, which I’m particularly proud of, potential employees come in for interviews with many of them working towards or have an interest in aviation. So far, we’ve had at least five of our staff at Tennyson go on to get their pilot’s license while they worked for us. They were able to use the brewery as a kind of side job while they went to go pursue a career or at least a license in aviation,” Slingsby said.

All of these partnerships, collaborations and initiatives demonstrate the character of the owners at FlyteCo. Grateful for their experiences in aviation, they want to share that with others and make it more accessible to all. Beyond that, they hope to continue creating a community within their breweries where people feel welcomed and encouraged to pursue their dreams.

So, grab a beer, perhaps co-owner Morgan O’Sullivan’s current favorite, Marzen Copter, or the number one seller Fogged Out Hazy IPA while sitting inside a model 737 fuselage.

Flyteco Brewing is located at 4499 W. 38th Ave, Ste 101 in Denver

Flyteco Tower is located at 3120 Uinta St in Denver

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