Loveland, Colorado, is a town located about 15-20 minutes south of Fort Collins and it is becoming an extension of the Fort Collins beer scene. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse and Verboten Brewing Company are about five minutes away from each other in Loveland. These two places were the focal point of my second full day in Fort Collins. I had been to each taproom previously about a year and four months ago on my way out of town to Longmont. I really became a fan of both places and regretted only having a limited amount of time to spend at each place my first time around. Now, I would be able to rectify that because I had planned ample time to meet and talk with the brewers at each place.
Grimm Brothers is located in a strip mall a little bit off the main road in Loveland. I was set to meet with the owners a little after their morning meeting just after 12:00 and I was really excited. Rose Schlosser handles the marketing for the brewery and had helped me arrange the interview let me into the brewery when I got there and she introduced me to Russell Fruits. Russell is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Russell made it clear that Grimm Brothers are trying to be very careful about how they grow because they want to make sure that they can deliver on quality for their customers and fans. Grimm Brothers turned 5 years old on July 25th and they are growing at a fast rate from when they started. They have already outgrown their original location that is located across the parking lot. After seeing how cozy the first location was, I could not even imagine how they packed patrons in there, but they did. Sometimes on weekends, they would stack up grain bags for people to sit on and assemble makeshift tables out of kegs and pallets. They currently brew around 2,000 barrels of beer a year and they have two different lines of brews, the Fairy Tales, which are their main rotation of beers and the Fable Series, which are limited release beers. Their two biggest growing beer labels are Little Red Cap, a GABF Gold Medal winning Alt Bier, and Fearless Youth, a Dunkel Lager. One of the things that really got me to love Grimm Brothers, other than their delicious beer, of course, is their eye-catching and playful artwork. Russell explained to me that their label art is the work of artist Josh Emerick. The label art captures the characters and essence of the Brothers Grimm Fairy tales that inspire the beers so well. Russell said that one of the coolest surprises that he has experienced during the process of helping bring Grimm Brothers to where it is today is having Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewing recognize their beers and liking them.
Russel had to get going after spending time answering my questions. He then introduced me to Aaron Heaton, the Business Manager and Co-Founder of Grimm Brothers. Aaron gave me a grand tour of the facilities, starting across the parking lot which houses their brewhouse, but used to house their taproom as well. The former taproom is now the place for their offices and it leads into the brewhouse. A collection of Fermenters, Boil Kettles and aging barrels consume the space in a controlled chaos. They literally use every square inch of the space. The brewhouse was active so we had to be careful to stay out of the way of the brewers as they were hard at work.
After the tour of their brewhouse, it was back over to the taproom to do some sampling. They have two options for taster flights and I decided that in the spirit of journalism, I would do both. I started with the more seasonal tasting flight and these were beers that I was not familiar with. The flight consisted of several styles I was not familiar with and I was about to get an education! The Old Sultan (Muenster Alt), The Huntsman (Kentucky Common), Batch 500 (Imperial Pils) and Once Upon a Time (Flögenflägen Bier) were all craft beer styles that I was either trying for the first time or maybe a second. This tasting flight illustrates why I am a Grimm Brothers fanboy. They are creative and do not feel that they have to obey the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law). Instead, they are open to exploring styles that they want to brew and recipes that hit on some incredibly unique flavors. Aaron’s partner in crime when it comes to brewing is Don Chapman, the President and Co-founder of Grimm Bros. Aaron and Don will collaborate and bounce ideas off each other for brewing recipes. The Fearless Youth, one of their most popular beers, was one of Don’s homebrew recipes that was tweaked and modified to work on the big brewing system. The first time they brewed Fearless Youth on the big brew system, it was a completely different beer than what Aaron and Don wanted. They went back and forth with it until they got it to the sweet spot of being the incredibly delicious and quaffable beer it is today. Muenster Alt is an example of how Grimm Brothers is playful with beer styles because it is a blond beer that is hopped up a bit and then lagered on lactobacillus to give it a small sour tang. This ability to brew something different, based off an old style is what really sets Grimm Brothers apart from a lot of other breweries with a German focus.
The second taster flight I had was comprised of their main beers which are available year-round. The Little Red Cap(Alt Bier), Master Thief(Porter), 3 Golden Hairs(Pilsner), Fearless Youth(Dunkel Lager) and Snow Drop(Köttbusser Honey Wheat Ale). Despite the fact that I was familiar with these from my last visit, it is never a bad idea to reacquaint with some splendid craft beers! The taproom is a colorful open and inviting space. With posters on the wall proudly displaying their main labels and a mural that covers an entire wall depicting beer pouring freely from a tap, there is a lot of visual stimulation here. It is clear that their merchandising is going well because when I looked at the wall of shirts, hats and other swag, they were almost out of everything. Grimm Brothers in a brewery and brand that is taking off and I hope that one day we will be able to have it available for purchase in MN. Until then, I will have to rely on trips back to Loveland to enjoy this fabulous beer and another great visit with the Grimm Brothers staff. Aaron and I chatted about beer for a long while and his passion for craft beer knows no bounds. His hospitality and desire to make sure that I had all my questions answered was first rate. Once I found out that he was a sour beer fan, I went out to the car and grabbed him a bomber of Surly Pentagram to enjoy as a small token of thanks for his time.
After a five minute drive from Grimm Brothers, I was taking pictures of the exterior of Verboten. What made me want to come back to Verboten after a brief visit back in 2014 was their creativity in brewing things that are out on the edge. They push the envelope when it comes to style and completely brew things that would get them in trouble with the Reinheitsgebot police. That attitude and spirit is the inspiration for their name, in fact. They brew things using styles and ingredients that the Beer Purity Law would consider verboten (German word meaning forbidden). The taproom is has a decent sized bar and there are are tables located outside on a patio. There are a nice mix of tables and bar space to accommodate a pretty good number of patrons. They had 11 beers on tap and the brewhouse is visible from the taproom. Several of the awards they have won over the years are displayed above the wall.
On this day, I was lucky to sit down with one of the co-owners of Verboten Brewing Company, Josh Grenz. Josh started out as a homebrewer and then became involved with the starting the beer club that I went to the previous night at The Mayor of Old Town. He started talking about opening a brewery for a few years and then decided to take the plunge. He chose Loveland because there was a growing niche in craft brewing thanks to Grimm Bros. and Crow Hop. Verboten currently brews on a small 3BBL system and is considered a nano brewery. They are looking to expand to a different site that would allow them to expand closer to downtown Loveland. This move would allow Verboten to triple their current production. Josh loves to buck trends and brew what he wants. He like
s bringing beer history into the present and that is evidenced in some of the offerings that Verboten brews. While they have some styles that are mainstream, they also delve into some of the less recognizable styles. I believe that it is this adventurous attitude on brewing that sets them apart from many of their peers in a great way.
One of the beers that Josh is most proud of is the Mountain Man, a barrel-aged Imperial Kentucky Common. The idea for this beer came from a conversation with another homebrewer where the homebrewer said that you can’t brew a good beer with adjuncts. Josh took that as a personal challenge and decided to brew the beer that would eventually win a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup. I love the fact that this beer was born out of a need to prove a point. I do believe that brewing is all about being inventive. I love the fact that a brewery has the confidence in their ability and convictions to brew things that others will not. When it comes to favorite beer styles, Josh prefers to gravitate towards anything aged in a barrel and Imperial IPAs. In the summertime, he really enjoys sessionable IPAs. I asked Josh if he thinks that craft beer is in danger of reaching a saturation point. Josh does not believe that we are anywhere close to a saturation point when it comes to craft beer. The transition of drinkers moving from macro to craft is a vertical scale. He looks at how many 21 year olds are starting with craft beer versus ten years ago when they that was not the case. He believes that as long as a 22 year old drinker sees the value in craft beer, that segment of the market will continue to grow. This was music to my ears!
When it comes to running a brewery, Josh says that one of the things he is most proud of are the regulars that have supported Verboten since the beginning. He has enjoyed cultivating relationships with people that come into the taproom regularly and during the time that we were chatting, he was constantly saying hello to people and greeting them by name. Josh definitely has a strong connection to the Verboten patronage. He says the biggest thing about the craft beer community is the people. When it comes to the craft beer community, Josh’s wife, Angie, also plays a big role in forging craft beer relationships. She helps coordinate the Verboten Sisterhood of the Traveling Pints, a group of women who are passionate about craft beer and travel around to different breweries and have a great time enjoying craft beer. When you see how passionate and invested that Josh and Angie are in craft beer, you understand how Verboten is able to craft such great beer and community.
I mentioned that they had 11 beers on tap when I was there. Josh was nice enough to set me up with a tasting flight of their main six craft beers and personally walked me through a tasting of them. I love hearing about the beers from Josh because there is really a story behind each one. The names of the beers are all quotes from some of Josh’s favorite movies. Being a fellow UHF (Comedy starring Weird Al Yankovic and a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards) I love the fact that the first beer in the flight was called Something Orange. Josh was impressed that I was able to pick out where that quote was from and before we could even talk about the beer, we had to reminisce about some other funny movie quotes from the movie. Something Orange is an example of how Verboten can take a common style of beer and knock it out of the park. Something Orange is an American Wheat beer with orange peel, but it is brewed masterfully and quickly stood out to me as one of the better wheat beers I had tasted on my trip. An example of their ability to take a historical style that once was almost dead, but is recently making a comeback is the Roll in Ze’ Hay Gose. Mel Brooks fans and craft beer history geeks alike will fall over themselves trying to get this beer. It recently won a silver medal in the U.S. Open Beer Championship. A little tidbit of history I learned from Josh is that breweries along the Gose River were exempt from the Reinheitsgebot and allowed to use coriander. The beer is naturally salty and has an incredibly refreshing quality. The slight tartness from the sea salt is balanced by the coriander to give it an extraordinary pleasing character. Those beers are just the tip of the iceberg. I also really enjoyed the Killer Boots Caramel Porter, Angry Banjo Kentucky Common and the Many Piñatas Bourbon Barrel Aged Quad. The barrel aged beers at Verboten are a strength of theirs. Verboten recently collaborated with Odell to brew Ignorance Is Bliss, a monster beer that was aged six months in a bourbon barrel. It clocks in at just a hair over 16% ABV, but doesn’t taste incredibly boozy and is really smooth. I had the pleasure of tasting the Ignorance Is Bliss later in the week at Odell and it was simply amazing.
Time flew by as Josh and I were talking and before long, it was time for Josh to go. Any time I get a chance to talk to someone who is that knowledgeable and passionate about craft beer, I treasure the experience. Josh’s convictions about what craft beer should be and the type of atmosphere he wants to see at Verboten are so incredibly strong. Along with his wife, they are creating something truly special at Verboten.
The day as a whole was spectacular. I was able to chat with several people who are rooted right in the thick of a craft beer movement to provide quality and unique craft beer in a manner that is open and approachable to all people. Grimm Brothers Brewing Company and Verboten Brewing Company are both places that craft beer lovers need to seek out. When you go, you will see first hand what a quality craft beer drinking experience is all about.