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Denver Beer Co.

Beer GeeksSep 25 '14

Brewing beer with trees at the Denver Beer Co! Come along for the ride with Host and Master Brewer Michael Ferguson and owner/brewers Charlie Berger and Patrick Crawford when they head into the Colorado mountains to pick juniper boughs, then brew the whole boughs along with the berries into a Finnish inspired juniper beer. You can taste the trees in the beer and in the beer infused pork belly po boy. It’s great fun all the way through the pairings table.


Episode Recap

Perfectly exemplifying the traits commonly associated with true Coloradoans, Denver Beer Co. is resourceful, exciting, and adventurous ‘til the end. To encourage this refreshingly unique reputation, the brewery changes their tap list daily, swapping out ingenious, local-made brews with equally awesome alternatives. In their first eighteen months alone, the company released more than 170 different beers, causing fans to quickly learn that finding a favorite is enjoyably futile.

As if the spontaneous, ever-changing factor wasn’t enough, Denver Beer Co. has created even more incentive for their fans to drink up by implementing the Promiscuous Beer Drinker Card. In typical punch card fashion, the slip of paper is equipped with an array of different boxes, each waiting to be punched when the owner has tried the correlating brew. After filling a Promiscuous Beer Drinker Card, the cardholder is granted the honor of brewing a batch with Denver Beer Co.’s high-profile brewmasters: Patrick (a physicist-turned-award-winning-home-brewer) and Charlie (a Colorado native who just happened to study at Munich’s Doemans Brewing Academy).

One of the company’s latest brewing experiments comes in the form of a Denver take on a Finnish-style Sahti. Made with juniper and rye, the resulting brew is earthy and aromatic; additionally, the bitter “Christmas-tree” flavor of the berries adds a unique bite.

The initial step in this beer’s creation requires a trek out into the cold. After driving up into the mountains outside of the city, Michael and Denver Beer Co.’s brewmasters trek through the snow in a hunt for the perfect juniper tree. Since Patrick and Charlie both have a passion for using as many local ingredients as possible, their brews are extra fresh. After gathering a decent quantity of pungent (and surprisingly small) berries and branches, it’s back to the brewery!

Upon their return, several of the boughs are tightly bound together and allowed to steep in the fresh Rocky Mountain water that the brewery uses to create its beer; this process gives the water a strong scent but a sweet and more mild juniper tea flavor while simultaneously encouraging protein coagulation. After 10 to 15 minutes, the branches are removed and the malt (two-row malted barley and crystal rye) is added. At this point, contrary to the standard brewing process, Patrick and Charlie immediately add whole-leaf hops to the mash instead of waiting to add them to the boil. As with most of the ingredients, the nugget hops are Colorado-grown, and thanks to the bittering element of the juniper berries, fewer are needed.

On top of the mash, the team throws additional boughs, which function as part of the grain bed while eliminating the need for rakes, as they make a perfect pathway for the wort. The mash is slightly on the thin side, providing an efficient runoff. For about an hour, it is steeped, brought to a boil, and then recirculated. Once this process is complete, the remaining berries are placed in a net and added to the brew to steep. The juniper beer is then fermented for two weeks before being released for the public’s enjoyment.

As with any good beer, good food can make its flavor even better, and Mike Harlin—the owner of Mikes2 Kitchen Food Truck—has this art down to a science. He creates plates with whatever brews Denver Beer Co. has on tap, and people line up (despite the frigid temperatures) to create the perfect pairing.

One of the most popular dishes at Mikes2 Kitchen, the Pork Belly Po Boy is made with tender pork belly that is marinated for over 24 hours in spices, juniper berries, and Denver Beer Co.’s Sahti before being smoked in a wood chip smoker for eight hours more. The pork is then seared before being added to a sub with herb cream cheese, greens, and a spicy-sweet jelly. Since the Sahti used as the marinade for the pork brine undergoes a flavor change during the cooking process, pairing the same beer with the dish creates a perfectly complementing flavor.

Next on the menu is the smoked barbecue brisket paired with the Midnight on the Summit, a black IPA with a bold yet slightly citrusy flavor. Unsurprisingly, this pairing is no exception to the age-old adage: big, bold darker beers go with big, bold red meat. The two daring flavors work well together. Lastly, the Shrimp Po Boy is tasted with the drool-worthy Graham Cracker Porter. The beer’s toasty flavor, complete with chocolate and vanilla notes, balances out the spiciness of the seafood dish, creating the ideal pairing.

With such an expansive imagination and highly localized approach to brewing, its no wonder why a relatively new brewing company like Denver Beer Co. is already flourishing. Their ingenuity and originality make for some extremely delicious brews.