Monday, May 16, 2011

(P)review: Denver Beer Co.

I stopped in at Denver Beer Co. yesterday for their “Hop Swap,” a practical marketing gimmick in which the beer-drinking public does their work for them. Each participant adopts a Cascade hop plant from the brewery, cultivates it for the summer, harvests the cones and then returns them to DBC to be included in a batch (or two) of beer. It reminded me of that class project where you and a partner have to parent an egg for a week without breaking it to get an ‘A’. (Actually, did anyone ever do that? My hunch is that it was simply a creation of sitcom writers. Sitcom writers from the 80’s. Terrible ones.)

I was initially skeptical of the Hop Swap. It made little sense. Who would spend an entire summer growing a crop for someone else, for free? No grade, no stipend, no kind of quid pro quo. It seemed awfully un-American.

My investigation revealed two things: 1. Being in a situation where something in limited supply is being given away, first-come first-serve, will cause me to need to have one, right now. I feel this is a distinctly American quality. 2. The people of Denver are such supportive beer fanatics that they will do almost anything to ensure the production of more barrels, including growing the ingredients pro bono. In the 10 minutes I was there, chatting and poking around, they probably gave out 20 plants. A steady stream of curious folk wandered up from the street, from their bikes, from cars—and keep in mind DBC is not right on any major pedestrian walkway. Nearly everybody went away an excited owner of a baby hop vine. Several signed up a “friend” and took two. It was hard not to buy into it after a conversation with Patrick, whose calm enthusiasm and easy explanation made me forget why I’d had any doubts to begin with. Perhaps most impressive is that they enlisted all these brewing soldiers without the use of alcohol—they don’t open until July and had no beer on hand to prime the pump.

Since I can’t comment on their beer (yet), a couple comments on the facility: first, it’s enormous. DBC is brewing in seven-barrel batches and a good chunk of their Walmart-sized building (only a mild exaggeration) is stuffed with kettles and tanks and other equipment. These guys are committed. And they expect to sell most of their beer out of the tap right there at the brewery. No plans to bottle or can any time soon, though you should be able to find their beers at a few restaurants around town. Finally, look forward to some interesting seasonals and single batches from these guys. A 7-barrel batch sounds kind of big to experiment with, but Patrick gave me a few examples of some of the one-offs and they sounded pretty intriguing. I don’t remember the details, but that’s no surprise. I had hop fever by that point.

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