Unlike Rocktober, the annual sensation of fall beer flavors, Hoptober, is in full swing.So far this month, fresh hop ales on draft could be found at Oktoberfest celebrations across the Centennial state, and the legendary Great American Beer festival kicked off last Thursday night in Denver.
However, my first beer journey of the fall brought this Beer Buff to BRU, a brewery in North Boulder. Unlike most breweries, BRU is located on a cul-de-sac in a quaint residential neighborhood. It opened this March in company founder Ian Clark’s residential garage and is one of the state’s smallest breweries. The home brewery has a complete set up, with a custom designed and plumed 3bbl brew system, cold room, bottle conditioning storage and conical fermenters, all with enough room left for two road bikes.
BRU company founder Ian Clark drains cleaner from a fermenting tank. (CU Independent/Andrew Kaczmarek)
The story of BRU’s roots can be traced to a batch of home brew, like many of Colorado’s legendary brew stories. Clark was a long-time home brewer.
“I had hundreds of bottles in my basement, wood, fruit, fermenters; it got a little out of hand,” Clark said. “One day, my wife said, ‘Why don’t you get your license?’ I pondered it, and then opened a brewery in my garage.”
Clark navigated through a bit of red tape to open a home brewery. However, after adding some extra security and getting a variance, BRU was approved to begin its operation.
Ian started commercially brewing 10 gallons at a time. He quickly outgrew this setup and upgraded to his current 3 bbl system in June, just three months after opening.
BRU sold its first keg to the West End Tavern in April and its second to Centro Latin Kitchen, where Clark is a full-time chef. His life-long career provided inspiration for what he calls “chef beers building on flavors.” These flavors come from lemon zest, juniper, dates, caramelized sugar and other atypical beer ingredients. BRU’s first two accounts have been steady customers since their first kegs and are the reason for the company’s quick growth. BRU’s quick growth also prompted bottling its beer for retail.
This handbuilt process is not without challenges. Clark has handbuilt the entire operation. He brews weekly on Saturdays and Sundays, sells bottles by hand before and after his full-time job and manages the company in his remaining hours.
“When I started, I thought I would just do it one day a week, take Sundays off,” Clark said as he dumped a boiling pot of sugar and dates in the boil kettle. ”[That was a] delusion.”
Clark said his biggest challenge thus far is keeping up with demand. As he ran back and forth managing the end of his brew day, he recounted the ups and downs of his startup.
“The first beer did not go well, beer ended up everywhere,” Clark said. “Things are going well now.”
As he hooks up a pump and plate chiller with ease and pumps the brown ale into a fermenter, it’s obvious he’s worked out the kinks.This is apparent in the beer BRU is crafting. I sampled the BRU Citrum IPA, an unfiltered beer brewed with juniper and lemon zest. The brew features a subtle lemon and herb taste on the palette blended with the citrus hops Cascade and Chinook. This refreshing IPA is balanced by a quaffable malt backbone and has a unique and tantalizing juniper-hop-lemon blend of bitterness on the back of the palette. This IPA is one of Colorado’s finest renditions of the style.
Stop by the West End Tavern and try this IPA. BRU also has brown ale, made with dates and caramelized sugar, on tap at Centro Latin Kitchen. Bottles will be available soon at your local liquor store.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Andrew Kaczmarek at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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