In the early days of craft beer in the U.S., having a pronounced hoppy flavor in a brew was basically the only definition of unique and experimental. As the craft of brewing has evolved, however, hops are no longer the sole name in the game, and breweries such as West Flanders Brewing Company on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder are going to the next level with flavorful experimentation and innovative, collaborative beers.
West Flanders opened in 2012. Business partners and brothers Mark and Chris Heinritz and brewmaster Brian Lutz “put the band back together” to create a brewery and restaurant with a new, unique philosophy in Boulder’s epicenter. Lutz, whose career in Boulder County craft beer dates back to 1993, and the Heinritz brothers wanted to move away from what had been considered inventive in the past and push the craft beer frontier forward. Drawing inspiration from the experimental brewing reputation of the Flanders region of Belgium, the West Flanders team strives to bring that tradition to Colorado.
“We love Belgian beer because of the country’s propensity for having a massive diversity of unique beers,” says Lutz. “We honor that tradition of experimentation and desire to make one-of-a-kind, often single-batch, off-the-wall beers that our customers will find provocative yet tasty.”
West Flanders experiments with a huge variety of ingredients, from different yeasts to unexpected splashes of flavor. At West Flanders, the goal is to take industry standards and craft beer trends and push the envelope further to make them even more interesting.
This practice of creative innovation also manifests itself in consistent collaborations with local businesses. West Flanders releases a recurring Saison Locale beer and, with each new iteration, partners with a local company to include a unique, unexpected ingredient to give the beer individuality.
“Saisons come from the farmhouse ale tradition where you used whatever you had on hand in the beer,” says head brewer Devon Allred. “Every time we make this saison we try to find something new and local to use.”
With the most recent Saison Locale No. 13, West Flanders partnered with Colorado-based Savory Spice Shop, compiling a unique set of spices to create a one-of-a-kind beer. This fall, West Flanders will also bottle their first sour beer, which has been aging for more than two years in whiskey barrels from Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons.
West Flanders likewise often collaborates with local homebrewers. Each year, West Flanders holds a homebrew contest and brews the winning recipe on their system. This year, West Flanders also collaborated with Fort Collins homebrewer Rich Efird, brewing his award-winning Snowy Wit on a 15-barrel scale for the first time. Efird said he was honored to join a team effort to sample, tweak and perfect his recipe.Committed to supporting and creatively collaborating with the local community, West Flanders Brewing Company brings the spirit of experimentation into the
heart of Boulder. From their flavorful beer to their delicious food and all the unexpected, yet exquisitely delicious, experimentations in between, West Flanders continues to evolve, making it a brewery where opportunities are limitless.
-From Massachusetts to New York to Reno to Boulder, Lisa Grove is a writer who has found her home on the Front Range.