It’s the summer of homebrewers. Or, more accurately, it’s the summer they’re stepping out.
Starting in about a week, when BRU Beer will open its first taps, three new breweries will emerge in Boulder County’s already busy beer scene. BRU, Twelve Degree and Gravity Brewing represent different styles, from Belgian to big beers to anything and everything. But they share common roots: All three are headed by longtime homebrewers who’ve decided to make the leap from hobby to business.
In fact, for Ian Clark, selling his beer is almost a necessity at this point. He’s just out of room.
“My basement is full of hundreds and hundreds of bottles of beer,” he says. “On shelves and on the floor — many, many different batches.”
Clark, the head chef at Centro Latin Kitchen and the man behind BRU, says he ultimately decided he needed to start selling to match his production.
For Jon Howland, the founder of Twelve Degree Brewing, a trip to Belgium kicked off a homebrewing interest and a lifelong passion about 15 years ago. He says no location is set in stone, but Twelve Degree is aiming for a summer opening.
It’s also been 15 years of homemade beer for John Frazee, president of Louisville’s Gravity Brewing. Frazee says Gravity will open in Louisville this summer.
These are some dudes who love their beer, right? Clark says, well, not really.
“I don’t actually drink very much,” he says. Strange. Really strange. If you don’t drink a lot, why brew at home?
Because, Clark says, the process is the best part.
“It’s a very therapeutic process for me,” he says. “It’s something that, the first time I made the very first batch, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is cool.’” The brewers aren’t in it for the money. They even plan to keep their day jobs. The three say they make beer because they love it — the product and the process.
“It’s just sort of magical,” Howland says. “I just love the idea of creating something original and unique and something that people can enjoy.”
Clark says he enjoys experimentation. “The ability to play around, see what you can come up with, see what your passion pushes you toward — it’s been fun,” he says.
“Brewing is an art,” Frazee says, “but we enjoy the scientific side of it.”
Howland agrees. “It’s very creative, but it’s very technical, too,” he says. “It’s a beautiful combination of cooking and chemistry.”
The trio’s fortunate to be in Boulder, they say, because its beer scene is so lively. Howland says Boulder’s the right place for a craft brewery.
“With the craft beer culture in Boulder County,” he says, “it just felt like at some point I just couldn’t not do it.”
Clark says that culture is a powerful one, but it’s also welcoming.
“I just hope to be a part of this killer beer scene. It’s hard not to be incredibly excited about beer,” he says.
He isn’t concerned about a crowded market because Boulderites are so often willing to try new and different brews, he says.
And all three are definitely going to be different. Each brewer is working on his particular niche. For Frazee, that means going big.
“We enjoy making the bigger beers,” he says. “We’ll have session beers, but we do like the big Belgian beers, the big IPAs.”
Belgians are home territory for Twelve Degree.
“I’m doing all Belgian style,” Howland says. “There’s a unique process. … The yeast does its thing and you end up with these amazing spicy and fruity flavors that are just really special.”
Clark, meanwhile, makes beers like a chef: adding ingredients to emphasize tastes. He adds dates and caramelized sugar to his brown ale and fresh lemon zest and juniper berries to his IPA.
“My wife calls them ‘chef beers,’” he says, “because of the use of those ingredients.”
Clark’s BRU will be first out of the gate this spring and summer. He says his as-yet-unnamed brown ale will be tapped April 9 at Centro, while The West End Tavern will start pouring his IPA, named Citrum, around the same date.