My friends recently took me to a brewery in Denver called Bruz Beers. They specialize in Belgian-style beer and their taproom at York and Colfax is a pretty cool spot to hang out and grab a couple.
As you guys may have figured out by now, I was born and raised in Belgium and value our beer cultural heritage. It is commendable that a Denver brewery would make it its entire focus.
I didn’t get to talk to the owners during my visit, but we’ve been emailing and they were kind enough to answer my questions. Charlie, you have the floor!
Tell us about the team.
I am Charlie Gottenkieny, Co-Founder and Brewmaster. The other Co-Founder is Ryan Evans, who is the owner of Bruz. Other key players are Jake Conover, General Manager; Dave Olson, Lead Brewer; and Kristin Zednick, Administrative Manager.
When and how did Bruz Beers get started?
Bruz Beers was incorporated on April 10, 2014. We began construction of the brewery in late 2015 and opened to the public in July 2016. Since the beginning, we have focused on traditional Belgian styles and contemporary Belgian-inspired styles, including a number of original creations.
How do you go about creating recipes?
Since we opened, I have created almost all of the recipes. Dave Olson, who joined us last year, has also created recipes. The recipe process starts with research, followed by prototype brews and then fine tuning to get the style profile we are looking for. We painstakingly document all phases of the recipe and brewing process so that we can reproduce beers accurately in the future.
As for our flagship brews, we do a number of Trappist-style Singles, Dubbels, Tripels and Quadrupels. Beers like Hellraiser (Golden Extra-Strong), Gnomeboy (Specialty), Valor (Brett-infused Specialty ale), Beet Saison (with beets straight from our garden) and Brut LaGrande (Champagne beer) are eagerly anticipated by our fans. We have recently gotten into more barrel-aged and authentic sours as well.
Any plans for the future at Bruz Beers?
Last year, we launched a major expansion plan, beginning with a new and larger brewing system and expanded fermenter space. At the end of last year, we opened a second, taproom-only, location in the East Colfax neighborhood at York and Colfax. Future plans include expanding clientele at both taprooms – which are the heart of our business. We are also expanding our wholesale business to local liquor stores through a range of canned products.
What do you think of the craft beer scene in the area and its expansion over the past few years?
Expansion in Colorado, and Denver in particular, has been rapid. It has given us a very vibrant beer scene and a level of quality not available in many cities. The market is getting crowded, though, and with that and Covid and changes in customer preferences, we may be looking at a bit of a shakeout over the next couple years.
Why Bruz Beers?
Bruz is a combination of different terms. The letters BRU are common in Belgium – Brussels, Bruxelles, Bruges, Zeebrugge, etc. That, and the fact that Bruz rhymes with Brews, gave us our name.
How have you been coping with Covid-19?
Well, we had to shut down for a while like everyone else, and that definitely impacted the business. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of some federal programs to keep our key people on the payroll, and were able to offer limited shifts to our servers. We started selling beer for pickup and canned beer for retailers. By the time we opened back up – maintaining CDC guidelines for masks, distancing in the taprooms, etc. business picked up. Reduced numbers in the taprooms hurt but we have big patios at both locations, so we have been getting by okay. Fortunately, we had a lot of fresh inventory in cold storage when things closed down, so we didn’t have to brew for a while. Now we’re back to pretty much full production.
Anything we’ve missed?
Both Ryan and I share a passion for Belgian-style beer. I have brewed Belgian styles for more than 30 years. There is an almost infinite variety of beers that can be made under the Belgian mantle. More importantly, Belgian-style beers are a solid differentiated niche. I mentioned earlier that I believe a shakeout is coming and I fear the most vulnerable breweries are those with no theme or niche that will allow them to set themselves apart from everyone else.
We also like to have fun at Bruz. We do monthly classes on Belgian beer and hold a Belgian Brew Fest each year. Last year we did the first of our annual trips to Belgium where we spent 10 days with a group of more than 40 people touring the countryside for brewery visits, special events, great Belgian food, tours, and lots of other fun stuff. It was fantastic.
More photos of Bruz Beers: