A Fermented Marriage
New Image weds kombucha with sour beer style
By Steve Graham
New Image Brewing doesn’t follow trends. Owner and head brewer Brandon Capps won’t make a red beer just because customers are asking for it. And he won’t flavor a beer with kombucha just because it’s flying off health-food store shelves.
On the other hand, Capps was very curious about the science of kombucha, a fermented, slightly effervescent tea drink. The sour flavor and the fermentation science was a bigger draw than the popularity or the reported health benefits.
“There’s a lot of long-aged sour beer character in something with a month turnaround,” Capps said. “I thought ‘Is there a way we could harness the power of creating a long-aged sour profile in a short period of time and translate that to a beer that has a complex sour profile but isn’t ridiculously overpriced?’”
The result is the deep and balanced Dyad, a kombucha brett saison available on tap and in cans. The brew is also blended with other beers and enhanced with other flavors in the Olde Town Arvada taproom.
“Dyad is one of the simplest beers that we make,” Capps said. “It’s a base that we use for all kinds of stuff. We blend it into a lot of beers. We do all kinds of cool things with the Dyad itself.”
New Image started by making a sour brett beer and blending it with kombucha, but they now basically simultaneously brew a kombucha and a sour beer at the same time.
“We took a kombucha culture and isolated it down to its basic components,” Capps said. The brewers experimented with adding kombucha yeasts and bacteria at various steps and times in the brewing process. As a result, they can make a complex sour beer in about three weeks, allowing for a cheaper and more accessible saison than most on the market.
“Some people can gloss over what Dyad is because it’s too affordable,” Capps said. “It really is a very complex, very special beer.”
Employee Kyle Rindahl pinpointed the resulting flavors.“Expect a clean lactic sourness, with huge notes of stone and tropical fruit,” he said.
Capps likened Dyad’s concept and the name to a marriage. “It represents the confluence of two ideologies, two industries and two products coming together and forming something that’s greater than the sum of its parts,” Capps said. “It’s like the way you take the qualities of two people and bring them together to form something that is stronger and more unique.”
Dyad is a logical evolution for Capps. Unlike many brewers, his love of science came before his love of beer.
“I really had no interest in beer. I didn’t drink as a high schooler. I didn’t drink in college much,” he said.
But he landed his first industry job as a process engineer at Anheuser-Busch.
“I got kind of exposed to how scientific the brewing process was, and I thought that was super interesting. I also realized it was super artistic. That’s what got me into beer,” he said.
Shortly after graduating from college, he helped open a Pittsburgh brewery that is still operating. He said he was known for making beers that were ‘out there,’ including a Thanksgiving beer that he said had turkey, cranberry, Brussels sprouts, brown sugar and sweet potato flavors.
“I could do these really out-there profiles and they would always come out really balanced,” Capps said.
He brought his science and his balanced beers to Colorado in 2015, and started brewing at Funkwerks. The Fort Collins brewery makes plenty of sour beers, and wasn’t afraid to let Capps experiment on their equipment.
The following year, he opened the New Image brewery and taproom.
“We do forward-thinking hoppy beers and forward-thinking pseudo Belgian-esque sour profiles, and we have been unapologetically adherent to those specialties,” he said.
New Image launched in 2016, and plans to open a new brewhouse early in 2019, doubling brewing output to 10,000 barrels by the end of the year. The brewery opened at the same time as a handful of other Olde Town Arvada restaurants and bars, riding a wave of popularity for the western suburb.
Shortly after opening, Capps started a canning line. He said Dyad and his other unusual styles sell well in cans at liquor stores, where sour beer aficionados all over the region can find his beer.
“There’s more access to that niche consumer that really digs what we do in terms of trying to push the envelope here and there,” he said.
Some of those consumers are also hoarding their Dyad cans and aging them at home.
“It’s truly a live, mixed-culture sour ale and it really does improve with time in the package,” Capps said.
If you don’t have the self-control to age your own beer, New Image also sells a barrel-aged version of Dyad, as well as quarterly rotating seasonal variants in cans and the taproom. This year, New Image also plans to launch a series of small-batch variants available only in the taproom, starting with a sweeter, dessert-oriented version to be tapped in February.
The current variant is the Blackberries and Cream Dyad, with lactose, vanilla and blackberry flavors added.
“If we were to put a blackberry pie in this beer, that’s what this emerged from,” Capps said.
He said he is glad his customers enjoy all variants of Dyad, regardless of their understanding of the complexity and science of the brew.
“Whether or not people really get that in full doesn’t matter to me because I know. It tastes great and people buy it, so that works for me,” Capps 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.