In 2012, Rick Abitbol was an out-of-work, opinionated brewer who’d been fired from his last two jobs. So with a $50,000 loan from his dad, a couple of credit cards and some crossed fingers, he decided to open Brewery Rickoli in Wheat Ridge, specializing in gluten-reduced beers. The last piece of the financial puzzle was a $10,000 loan he got from Boston Beer Company’s Brewing the American Dream program, which Boston Beer founder Jim Koch was launching as a way to give back to the food and beverage community.
This week, Abitbol will toast a five-year partnership between his tiny, three-barrel brewery and Boston Beer, the country’s largest craft brewery by far, when the maker of Sam Adams starts selling twelve-packs of collaboration beers from five small breweries nationwide, including Rickoli's Oats McGoats Stout. To celebrate, Rickoli will host a party at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26, with beer, food, music and Boston Beer reps at the taproom at 4335 Wadsworth Boulevard in Wheat Ridge.
The Brewing the American Dream Collaboration Pack, which should hit store shelves in Denver this month, comes with beers from Roc Brewing in Rochester, New York; Bosque Brewing in Albuquerque, New Mexico;
ChuckAlek Independent Brewers in Ramona, California; Woods Beer Company in San Francisco; and Brewery Rickoli. Like Rickoli, the other companies received loans from Boston Beer (and its financial partner, Accion), and most had been selected to participate in the company’s exclusive Brewing and Business Experienceship program, where they got individual coaching from the team at Sam Adams.
“It’s amazing to us still that we have been able to be a part of this,” Abitbol says. “With this, we are giving back to the program and helping to move it forward. Boston Beer has been so great to us.”
All profits from the collaboration pack will be donated to Accion, a nonprofit that provides loans to small food and beverage businesses nationwide. “We don’t get a nickel from it,” Rickoli jokes. The money will be used to continue to support Brewing the American Dream, which has given $18 million in loans to 1,000 small businesses, including forty breweries, since 2008, and provided counsel to more than 8,000 businesses.
“This pack represents the independent spirit, passion and collaboration that is core to our craft-beer industry,” Koch said in a statement. “We’re proud to have collaborated with these creative and passionate brewers in a way that allows us to continue to...empower fellow independent craft brewers to be successful and to grow.”
Abitbol first brewed his contribution to the twelve-pack with Boston Beer in 2014 as part of the Brewing and Business Experienceship program. Oats McGoats is a 6.5 percent ABV American stout brewed with oat malt and oats. The Golden Naked oats lend the beer an earthy, spicy quality, Abitbol says. At the time, the beer was only available on tap at Brewery Rickoli, the Sam Adams Boston Brewery and a few other bars.
The beer — named for an Internet meme known as Totes Ma Goats — started out as Rickoli's Rye Stout, but was continually revised as Abitbol and his staff worked with Boston Beer on recipe changes and additions. They kept the beer in its gluten-reduced format, but scaled it up from Rickoli's three-barrel system to the 100-barrel system at Boston Beer. "We sent samples back and forth. We worked through it, and they incorporated the oat malt and Golden Naked oats. It came out really nice," Abitbol says.
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"We are excited because we have a gluten-reduced beer in a twelve-pack with regular beers," he adds. "We think it really helps break down the walls between the two."
Abitbol says Koch didn't seem very convinced about the idea of a gluten-reduced beer at first, but after sending some samples of Oats McGoats to a gluten-sensitive friend and getting overwhelmingly positive feedback, Koch got on board. "We saw each other at GABF, and he came running over," Abitbol says.
At the party on Wednesday, Abitbol will tap the original Oats McGoats as well as a version with vanilla and one with chile peppers. Tickets to the event are available at eventbrite.com.