My last two trips to Colorado have brought me very close to FATE Brewing. FATE was teamed with Minneapolis’ own Surly Brewing Co. for a food and beer-pairing event at the Great American Beer Festival last October. Back in January, when my wife and I were in Colorado, I photographed an Arapahoe Ave. street sign for my wife. That street is a key landmark in her favorite book, Stephen King’s The Stand. Being on that street crossed off a bucket list item for her. About two miles away from where I took that photograph, down that very road, is FATE Brewing.
FATE Brewing has been in business since 2013, and business has been good. They’ve already snagged one Great American Beer Festival medal, and are getting ready to grow on both sides of the business with a second restaurant in nearby Lafayette, Colo. and a second brewing facility. I got in touch with FATE Head Brewer Jeff Griffith and shot him some questions about his path to Boulder, volcanoes, noisy neighbors, and collaboration beers. It took every ounce of my will, but I refrained from asking for FATE puns.
Me: What got you brewing?
Griffith: My wife bought me a homebrew kit for Christmas a long time ago. She had been to Europe before and had a knowledge of good beer. I didn’t have that knowledge yet, so she piqued my interest in beer beyond the macro stuff. It eventually led to me wanting to try to make those beer styles. There wasn’t the information out there then like there is now. It didn’t go well for a while – bad batch after bad batch – but, when I finally made that first good one, I was hooked.
FH: I’ve spoken to a number of former engineers who’ve taken the brewing path and done well. Do you think that background gives you an advantage?
JG: I think brewing is a combination of art and science. There is art and creativity involved in developing beer, but the process of producing wort and beer is a scientific and mechanical process. There is a lot of engineering involved in the brewhouse, so I suppose having knowledge of these systems could be considered an advantage.
FH: Have you ever, in either profession, caused an explosion (be honest)?
JG: Nothing involving fire. I have created a hop volcano while dry-hopping: a stream of beer and hops shooting out of the top of the fermenter, and [we were] unable to close the opening. I’ve also seen (I didn’t do it) the bell of a DE filter take off like a rocket when the latch was released with about 40 PSI behind it.
FH: As a brewery in Golden, how did Golden City Brewery deal with the presence of Coors when you were there, and vice versa? Was there ever interaction of any kind?
JG: Having Coors there was never an issue. We were a speck. They spilled more beer in a day than we made in a year. Every now and then, the guys from AC Golden would come over and we would have a few pints together.
FH: While we’re on this, what’s your favorite beer (that you can get for $2 or less – what it is and where you get it)
JG: I don’t really drink $2 or less beer unless I really have to; but, back in my college days in Missouri in the 80’s, Schaeffer longnecks were within my budget. It was an acquired taste. I don’t even know if that beer is still made.
In case you’re wondering: It is … kind of.
FH: When you first saw the FATE logo, did you see the arrows right away or were you like me and spent an inordinately long time trying to figure out what the circle was supposed to be?
JG: It took me a long time before the arrows stuck out, but once you see them you wonder how you missed them.
FH: Your brew style is described on the website as “eclectic and innovative.” How so?
JG: I enjoy brewing all types of beer. We are always trying to find ways to think differently, whether it’s an ancient ale recipe or a burgeoning style. We like to brew true to style, then add a unique twist to make them our own – for example, using coffee in lighter beers. We are really enjoying kettle souring nowadays. We are continuing to push the envelope, and look at brewing and flavoring beer as innovatively as we can.
FH: Am I reading this right? “A puckering salty tequila barrel aged gose”? Take me briefly through the recipe creation process for this (and may I purchase some and have it shipped to Minnesota).
JG: I have been making gose ales for about 10 years now. When we first started FATE Brewing Company we knew we wanted to brew this style and have it regularly available. Once we had the recipe fine-tuned, it struck us how similar the gose was to being a margarita beer. It had the salt, sour and citrus. It was just missing the tequila, so we put it on tequila barrels and we were blown away by how good it was.
FH: And now they’re trying to make beer K-Cups. Do you see that idea seriously taking off? What limitations do you see?
JG: I don’t know how it will go. We are working with Picobrew and have three of our styles in the packs. I will be brewing a couple of them next week so I will get to see how works. I’m not really sure what the limitations would be. I think if the machines are affordable and the product that comes out is quality, it could take off.
FH: How were the pairings chosen for the Collaboration Beer Fest, and how soon before the event itself?
JG: Our collaboration with Declaration Brewing Company was setup during this past year’s Great American Beer Festival with a “Hey, you wanna do Collabfest?”. The Reuben’s Brews collaboration has been in the works for a couple of years. Adam Robbings [of Reuben’s Brews] and I met at SAVOR a couple of years ago, and wanted to do something together ever since. Collab Fest is a great way to develop these relationships.
FH: How do these collaborations work? Who went where? Who did what? How did you decide all of that? Was there violence?
JG: Collaborations usually happen organically. You come with some ideas and figure out what’s going to draw interest. Once there, we will formulate the recipe. This is great because it allows us to learn new things from other brewers. I brewed with the guys at Declaration, and Reuben’s Brew’s came out to Boulder to brew. There wasn’t violence, but a potato cannon was involved at Declaration.