Tucked in the suburbs of Denver is Brewability, a brewpub-pizzeria. On the outside, it looks like your typical family-friendly gastropub. On the inside, there is something really special happening. The staff is predominantly adults with disabilities. This business has made its mission to give them employment opportunities and empowerment.
Tiffany Fixter, a former special education teacher from Kansas City, opened Brewability Lab in 2016. When she moved to Denver, she got a job working with adults with disabilities but was let go. She noticed how many of these adults lived with relatives and had no livelihood. Those that had jobs were bagging groceries or janitorial staff. Fixter wanted to give these adults more of a chance to work in service industries and interact with other people.
Brewability hires everyone from people with autism to those who are blind or deaf. The bar staff’s positions appeal to the strengths of the employees. Those good at counting handle the register, and those good at pouring beer work the bar.
Fixter made sure to make the jobs accessible for staff members. She color-coded the taps to make it easier for the staff to pour the right beer for a customer. Braille is on the taps as well. A sensory break room was added when some staff members were overstimulated, which workers with autism especially enjoyed.
Managers without disabilities supervise the staff, calming them if they are overwhelmed and assisting with customers. Customers are asked to order the beer by color rather than name.
Photo Courtesy Brewability
None of the staff with disabilities works full-time for many reasons, including health. Most live with their families, earning minimum wage plus tips at Brewability. Seeing the success of the brewpub, Fixter decided to open a pizzeria — Pizzability — in 2018.
Residents in Denver liked the idea, but many didn’t believe in the staff. Some took to social media saying mean things, but others, like Colorado journalist Tori Mason, took a different approach. She tweeted in 2019 for people to give Pizzability a chance and encouraged tolerance and patronage.
The tweet caused a two-week surge in business, but not enough to keep Pizzability open as its own store. However, Mason’s message caught the attention of some major news outlets. The BBC did a profile of Brewability, noting how the tweet sparked internet fame. ESPN and the Special Olympics came in as well. But customers weren’t coming in droves, so Pizzability merged with Brewability in December 2019.
Photo Courtesy Brewability
“We don’t want people coming here out of pity,” Fixter told the BBC. “We want people to come because the food is good and the drink is good and because there is a need for a pizzeria and brewery that are accessible and give people an opportunity.”
Brewability has been a success, impacting the Denver community. You can find a bartender who is legally blind and pours beers by weight. There are autistic servers, a cashier with Down syndrome, or an assistant brewer with Asperger’s. Everyone is given a chance at Brewability.
It’s affordable, too! Pizzas only cost around $4 a slice. You have to add an extra dollar for pepperoni. With outdoor and indoor seating, it’s a wholesome spot for those looking for a good slice and a cold one. All beer is brewed onsite and costs around $6 a pint. You’re supporting adults with special needs to achieve something many think is impossible. It’s not only validating; it sets them up for success in the future.