Small, Mighty and Drinkable Art

Photos: Kristen Owens

Photos: Kristen Owens

From giant corporate beer producers to boutique artisans, there’s room for all in a crowded beer market

By Kristin Owens

After winning prestigious international awards and working at one of the country’s largest craft beer producers, what accomplishments remain for a renowned masterbrewer? Not what you think. Think small … even nano-sized.

Peter Bouckaert took on a new challenge since leaving his 21-year tenure at New Belgium Brewing Co., one that doesn’t follow a traditional business model. His latest project, Purpose Brewing & Cellars, is tucked into an unsexy Fort Collins strip mall and open four days a week with limited hours. No flagship beers and the handful of taps change weekly. Yet, it’s crowded. Always. What’s Bouckaert up to?

From giant corporate beer producers to boutique artisans, it turns out there’s room for all in the crowded beer market. Bouckaert has created a niche beer experience. All of his beers are originals, like works of art. Most breweries try to match a particular beer style but he focuses on creating a moment. This wouldn’t happen anywhere but in beer-savvy Colorado.

Although Bouckaert says there’s only three ingredients in beer, “experience, knowledge, and creativity,” his ingredients read like a five-diamond international gastronomy tasting menu. For instance, the Pa Amb Tomàquet is infused with Aleppo pepper and dried Roma tomatoes. Or the Nacht, dark as night, brewed with 100 percent Troubadour malt and aged with Brazilian Amburana wood. These beers are anything but simple. The harmonious flavors combined with thoughtful processes produce unexpected creations. And as big as the world is to source interesting elements, he loves local collaborations and partnerships, like using Chenin Blanc Chardonnay barrels from Infinite Monkey Theorem and exotic spices from the Old Town Spice Shop.

Purpose beer flights are pricey, around $15 for four. Yet customers understand his concepts and are willing to pay. Bouckaert knows which creations work by how they sell. High popularity doesn’t mean a particular brew will return on tap; he doesn’t want to get stuck. He has no interest in distributing. Bouckaert believes larger breweries are suffering and smaller craft taprooms are getting crowded, so beermakers need to continually push forward with ingenuity. That’s his favorite space.

Peter Bouckaert at Purpose Brewing.

Peter Bouckaert at Purpose Brewing.

If you want to know Bouckaert’s views on how the beer industry continually evolves, just ask him. He’s usually pouring at the taps twice a week to get customer’s immediate feedback. He wants to create passions, and clarifies both, “love and hate,” are passions. The biggest compliment customers can give are specifics: too fruity or too carbonated. This helps plan the next batch. Bouckaert explains he is “blessed with great customers who have tasting skills.” And he loves elevating the boundaries of their expectations.

So why the limited hours? Like everything else Bouckaert does, it’s all about the beer. Since the barrel room is kept constant at 65 degrees, paying customers warrant raising the temperature – the tasting room IS the barrel room. And since barrel temps shouldn’t fluctuate for long periods, limited hours are necessary.

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Contributor Kristin Owens passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Introductory Examination and travels the world looking for a good $10 bottle of wine. She’s a full-time writer based in Fort Collins.