Flying the Freak Flag(ship)
Barrels & Bottles turns unusual ale into year-round favorite
By Steve Graham
Greg Moore knows better than to tell his customers what to drink. “The funny thing about flagship beers is you can decide all you want what your flagship is going to be, but sales are going to dictate what your flagship is going to be,” he said.
Moore is the head brewer at Golden’s Barrels & Bottles Brewery, where customers have demanded year-round flagship-level production of what was once a one-off firkin of blonde ale flavored with orange juice, orange peel and vanilla beans.
“The nice thing about being small scale is we can do lots of different stuff, and here we are always focused on the beer,” Moore said. “We aren’t worried about the trends. We’re just trying to do right by our beer and by our customers.”
The orange creamsicle ale dates back to previous head brewer Cory Carvatt. He brought the recipe with him from Dry Dock Brewing Co. in Aurora, where he blended that original firkin. Moore said he maintained Carvatt’s process but tweaked the recipe.
“I have manipulated it a bunch,” he said. “When I first got here, it was kind of like a big old vanilla bomb.”
He admits he wanted to balance out the vanilla both to bring out the milder beer flavors and to save money. Real vanilla is expensive, and Moore isn’t interested in artificial ingredients.
“I wait for it to finish fermenting, then I add real, actual orange juice in secondary (fermentation),” he said. “In the bright tank, I add vanilla beans and dried orange peels to try to round out the orange flavor in there.”
He also added some wheat to his standard blonde ale recipe. The result is a favorite among regulars, and a draw for newcomers. Most customers want to try the beer even if it’s not their favorite style, he said. Returning customers complain when it runs out, but Moore hopes that won’t happen this summer.
“We’re ramping up into the summertime,” Moore said. “This is when everything gets a little crazy and it’s non-stop brewing.”
Moore worked at ever-larger breweries: Rock Bottom Brewery, Wynkoop Brewing Company and Sleeping Giant Brewing Company, a contract brewery that helps small breweries get more beer into cans and bottles. Sleeping Giant expects to exceed 60,000 barrels of beer this year.
Moore scaled down substantially to the small operation at Barrels & Bottles.
“I’ve always liked the smaller end of it,” Moore said. “I did the Sleeping Giant because I wanted to see the production end of it, but I enjoy the smaller scale and the more personal stuff. I like the idea of having the freedom and autonomy to do whatever I want.”
He also appreciates being part of a smaller community and a smaller brewery market in Golden. Barrels & Bottles draws a consistent crowd of locals and tourists through the big, airy garage doors for 27 beer taps (about a third brewed in house and the rest are guest beers), 24 wines on tap and wine slushies — think Icee drinks for grownups.
“People know us and it’s an easy community to be a part of,” Moore said.
Steve Graham is a freelance writer and former newspaper editor who likes taking his two young boys biking, hiking and brewery-hopping in northern Colorado.