Though Asher Brewing Company is the only certified organic brewery in Colorado it is a markedly ungilded shade of “green.” From the unapologetically jerry-rigged “lab” to the head brewer Chris greeting me with a beer snifter in a koozie, it was clear that Asher is much more about substance than style.
Chris is a brewer of passion. As a student of American Studies at Wesleyan he led a student tutorial on home brewing out of his own kitchen. Chris spent his senior year teaching fellow students the basics of brewing beer; everything from simple extract brewing techniques to more involved all-grain brewing approaches. Needless to say, after a year of university accredited instruction in beer-making Chris’s career in American Studies took off! (Beer is American, right?). After brewing at Golden City Brewing in Golden and completing his MBA at CU Chris founded Asher Brewing Company with a vision of putting an American spin on traditional beer recipes.
Being an organic producer can mean different things to different people: self-proclaimed humanity; a higher potential asking price; a marketing card to play at the Whole Foods eco-friendly poker table. For Chris and Asher Brewing Company, organic production is about painting from a palate of ingredients that give a genuinely richer beer. It’s about realizing that barley with less pesticide residue gives a beer with better clarity and fosters healthier fermentation. Chris was quick to point out an obvious point that is somehow overlooked by the general imbibing public: many pesticides are fungicides, and yeast (our fermenting friends) are, in fact, fungi. Well its no wonder a minimally sprayed barley would give a cleaner, smoother fermentation. Want a hop with better bittering capacity? Don’t spray it; the organic acids responsible for bittering a beer are a natural antibacterial used by the hop plant to defend itself. A hop bine with an exterior source of protection has less need to expend energy producing defensive acids.
But don’t confuse an absence of romanticism with an absence of quality or creativity. The Asher Brewing Green Bullet IPA and the Greenade Double IPA get a triple hit of organic hops. After bittering hops are added to the boil, the beer passes through a hop back (essentially a large hop tea basket) to extract essential oils, and the fermenting beer is then “aroma hopped.” Both of the latter processes are basically techniques that allow a brewer to impart the citrusy aromatics of the hop cone without further bittering the beer. The process culminates in an exceptionally smooth and floral IPA. Because the majority of the hops are added after the boil, the IPA is low on bitterness and high on aromatics (right up my alley). Their Amber Ale follows suit, low on the bitterness, and big on the malty, bread richness.
Between their all-season offerings, their seasonal ales, and the “Funbarrel” series (a series of barrel aged beers available only on tap at the brewery) there is no lack of creativity among Chris and his second in command Forest (a local who hung around the taproom so much Chris started putting him to work). I was able to taste their summer seasonal, a Ginger Light Amber brewed with 5 pounds of fresh organic pureed ginger from (believe it or not) the local Whole Foods! It was, needless to say, screaming with spicy ginger freshness. The flavor is more akin to a piece of crystalized ginger (minus the sweetness) than a ginger bread. And the upcoming Funbarrel beer…. aBelgian strong aged on organic cocoa nibs in a Cognac barrel (past Funbarrel beers have spent time in casks sourced from the nearby Boulder Creek Winery). Though I wasn’t able to taste it during my visit, it is on tap at the brewery as of September 15th. It smelled like a straight up Brandy Alexander.
Asher Brewing Company has just released 140 cases of their Green Bullet IPA in 16oz 4 pack cans. They have been distributed to only 5 local liquor stores (Hazels, Liquor Mart, Whole Foods in Boulder, Alfalfas in Boulder, and Twin Peaks in Longmont). Chris has plans to expand their distribution. And though I am looking forward to finding more of their beers in bottle shops around me I will definitely be going back to their tap room to hunt down a snifter of that Cognac chocolate belgian strong…probably tomorrow!