By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
Cheyenne is one of the most well known and historic cities in Wyoming — and perhaps in the West as a whole.
At the root of that history is the Union Pacific Railroad, whose arrival in eastern Wyoming in 1867 spurred development of the city that would become the state’s capitol.
The railroad’s presence was marked with an imposing depot standing at one end of Capitol Avenue facing the Capitol Building at the other end like two gunfighters squaring off at high noon.
The current depot was completed in 1887, and remained the property of the Union Pacific until 1993, when it was donated to the City of Cheyenne.
In its 134-year life, the depot has seen its share of history. The 1903 hanging execution of the notorious range detective and Pinkerton agent Tom Horn took place in the shadow of the depot in the old Laramie County courthouse.
The depot saw the rise of automobiles and the completion, in 1913, of the Lincoln Highway connecting Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.
In 1936, the depot welcomed president Franklin D. Roosevelt on a whistle stop campaign tour.
Today, the depot and the plaza it sits on are at the heart of Cheyenne and serve as a major venue of entertainment. The plaza hosts concerts, car shows and a range of other attractions, while the building itself is home to the Depot Museum.
The east end of the depot has been home to several restaurants over the years but what brings me to the depot today is Accomplice Beer Company.
Owner Rory Sandoval opened Accomplice Beer Company in 2016 and according to its website, the restaurant “was founded on the belief that great craft beer should be complimented with excellent food and customer service.”
Rory’s mother Kathy Sandoval tells the story of opening Accomplice in a space where at least three other breweries had opened — and then closed.
“We took a semi’s load of trash out of the building and it was in such disrepair that it was an overwhelming task,” she said. “Everything went out from the old brewery because it wasn’t usable, so everything is new that’s been brought in.”
The brewery now serves up a number of award winning beers.
“We have seven core beers on tap, and two on rotation,” said General Manager Steven Mitchell.
You could come in and sample any of beer for free, but you won’t want to stop at a sample! Mitchell tells us that his favorite beer on tap is the Nue Dogma IPA, a brew described as a “super juicy, hoppy, fruity, New England Style IPA…” The brewery’s most popular beer, however, is “Krimson King,” named after owner Sandoval.
Kathy Sandoval tells me with a mother’s pride, “it’s number one because he’s number one, and his name, Rory, means ‘Red King’ in Gaelic.”
“Last year at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Krimson King won second place,” she said.
Kathy’s own favorite is the brewery’s Slumber Car Porter, which won a first place trophy at the Saratoga Springs Beer Festival.
The brewing process at Accomplice is quite involved, as one might imagine. I spoke with eight-year brewing veteran and assistant brewer Brian Gill. Brian enlightened me as to the stages of the brewing process, from empty vat to a full glass.
The first step is the milling of the grains that will be used. Malt is the most commonly used grain but depending on the end product, the brewer will also use rye and wheat as well.
The next step is mashing. In the mashing stage, the milled grain is added to very hot water, ranging from 144 degrees to 158 degrees.
“This is the stage that activates enzymes that convert starches into sugars,” Gill said. “We then separate the solids from the liquid, and that becomes what we call wort.”
The wort is then boiled with hops and other flavors. Adding the hops at different times in boiling process will impart a different flavor to the wort.
“Seasonally, we make a wet-hopped IPA, made with hops harvested within 24 hours of brewing.” Gill adds “You can only do this one time a year, right at harvest time. For that reason, we get those hops close by, in Eaton, Colorado.”
The infused wort is then cooled to about 65°f before brewer’s yeast is added.
Fermentation takes place over the next four to six days, when the yeast converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol. The wort is now beer. It is cooled again to 30°f, which allows the yeast to settle to the bottom of the fermentation tank for separating.
This clarifies the beer before the next step, racking.
Racking is where the beer is pumped into a “bright tank,” in which carbonation is added before kegging, bottling or canning.
All this talk about beer might make you believe that’s all Accomplice is, a brewery. However, regulars like myself will tell you there’s much more to Accomplice than beer. This is “Eating Wyoming,” not “Drinking Wyoming,” after all. So, yes, there is a full range of foods to discuss.
Burgers, pizza, sliders and sandwiches are all part of the menu. General Manager Mitchell is a fan of the basil pesto pizza, but he also commented that “all the burgers are great.”
Kathy Sandoval’s favorite menu item is the kale salad with tuna. It’s kale salad, feta cheese, dried cranberries and toasted almonds and a champagne vinaigrette.
“I like to pair it with my favorite beer, the Slumber Car Porter,” she said.
During my visit with several friends, I ordered the “Fish San-Which,” which features fish coated in Accomplice beer batter and then fried until crispy and served with melted American cheese. It is served on a toasted harvest moon bun and topped with Accomplice’s San-Sauce, a kosher pickle and dressed romaine. Absolutely amazing!
The beer batter wasn’t your average fare, nor was the fish itself. Not overcooked and dry, the fish was moist and flaky. The side of shoestring fries made this my top pick, but hey, I hadn’t tried everything…yet.
Next up was the my friend’s Black and Blue Burger. A blackened 7-ounce ground Angus burger on a Kaiser bun with blue cheese and fixings.
I’ll be honest here. I didn’t get a photo of this burger, because our order came while I was talking to assistant brewer Brian Gill. But I was told the burger was cooked perfectly to order and was capital “D” delicious.
To make up for that, here’s a photo from Accomplice’s Facebook page. That’s the burger behind the pork chop dinner, which is served over caramelized apple, potatoes and arugula with apple cider gravy. I know, it’s hard to concentrate on the burger, huh?
I highly recommend Accomplice Beer Company.
If you find yourself down by the depot in Cheyenne, and you are either thirsty or hungry, head on over and fill your glass, or your stomach. While you’re there, pour a pint for me!
Accomplice is located at 115 W. 15th St. Cheyenne, WY
Their hours are 11am to 9pm daily.
Phone: (307) 632-2337On the web at accomplicebeer.com