Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A lot of craft-beer fans would have made a beeline to New Belgium Brewing, the third-largest craft brewer in the nation by production volume, trailing only Boston Beer Co. (maker of Sam Adams) and Sierra Nevada Brewing.
Instead, we steered to a craft brewer that's relatively new, small and interesting. Funkwerks was founded in 2009 by an accomplished homebrewer, Gordon Schuck, and an accountant, Brad Lincoln.
(It's interesting how many craft brewing partnerships involve one dude who really knows beer paired with another dude who can keep a business running).
Schuck is a Belgian beer geek who won a gold medal at the 2007 National Home Brew Competition for his saison. His brewery reflects that — every beer on tap is Belgian-inspired.
A lot of breweries take a crack at a saison, but only a few make these beers the center of their breweries (The Bruery in southern California and Upright Brewing in Portland, Oregon come to mind). The rise of these sorts of breweries that focus on one style is a major trend in craft brewing the past five years or so.
Funkwerks occupies a space abandoned by Fort Collins Brewery. It's a nice spot, with a good patio and a shady tree, a just-right modern-feeling tasting room and plenty of space in the back to do the dirty work. The brewing goes down on a 15-barrel system.
I had the $8 sampler, which I'd recommend. It will get you the whole range of their beers (seven on tap during my visit), poured into Belgian globe glasses. It's a substantial portion of beer, and you'll want to be prepared for it.
Funkwerks' flagship beers are its saison and white, both bottled in 750 ml wine-style bottles. These are understated beers. Neither is the best of its kind I've ever had. Rather, they're just nice Belgian-style ales that go down easy, with inoffensive flavorful profiles.
Their best beers were their lightest and their heaviest. Their light one, appropriately named Casper, is 5 percent ABV and light as a ghost. It was wonderfully refreshing for a hot summer day.
The heavy entry was Maori King, an 8 percent ABV imperial saison with a depth of flavor not found in the standard saison (6.8 percent ABV). Interestingly, it uses Rakau hops, a New Zealand variety of which I was heretofore unacquainted. Promising, this one.
Fortunately, Maori King is Funkwerks' next bottled beer, joining the white and saison due to popular demand (at last tweet, Funkwerks had bottled Maori King and was waiting for labels to arrive, which shouldn't take long). Their bottled beers are available in the Denver area. My guess is it'll be awhile before we see them down in our corner.
Funkwerks isn't quite yet at the level of Upright or The Bruery, for example. But I love where they're going. Fine Belgian-style beers are a joy, and the Denver area was due for a niche Belgian brewery like Funkwerks. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
It'll be fun to see what Funkwerks does next.