Cerebral Brewing opened last weekend on East Colfax Avenue, and drinking beer there is like going back to science class but a lot more fun. Founded by Sean Buchan, Chris Washenberger and Dan McGuire, the brewery takes its name and its theme from the professional backgrounds of Washenberger, a molecular biologist, and Buchan, a physical therapist.
But the brewery's scientific leanings extend much further than that. While Buchan, an award-winning homebrewer, will take on the head beer-making responsibilities, Washenberger will man the lab, using equipment there to monitor the health of the brewery's yeast and other factors. The goal of the lab is be able to consistently produce quality beer, using science rather than taste buds alone.
"The most important thing any new brewery can get is a microscope," Buchan says, adding that Cerebral also has a hemocytometer, an instrument that measures cell counts in liquids. Washenbeger will use this to check on the health and viability of Cerebral's house yeast strain before pitching it from one beer to the next. "Down the line, we will eventually propagate our own yeast, too."
In addition to the lab, the science-class theme carries over to the beers — which have names like Rare Trait, Dark Galaxie and Invisible Hand — and the decor: One wall is entirely covered with pages from textbooks (including some that the pair bought at the famous Powell's Books in Portland during a research trip). There are also scientific-minded trinkets and books on display, beakers for tasting glasses and a skeleton mascot named Mr. Bones. And the menu board looks similar to a classroom chalk board.
So far, Rare Trait, the brewery's IPA, has been selling the best, followed by Dark Galaxie, an oatmeal milk stout. "Rare Trait has almost doubled every other beer," Buchan says. "I though our Table Saison, Maginot Line, would do well. I'm biased, though, because I think it is one of my favorite beers. But it hasn't done as well so far as the IPA and the stout."
The other beers on tap now include Germ Theory, a gose; Muscle Memory, an American pale ale; and Known Entities, an English brown with a touch of sweetness. Cerebral plans to add a coffee version of Dark Galaxie this weekend, made with coffee from the nearby Lula Rose General Store. The brewery will also tap Invisible Hand at some point soon. This will be a rotating 100 percent Brettanomyces-fermented Belgian-style single; Buchan will brew it with a different strain of Brett each time, however.
"We wanted to make sure we had a solid lineup of beers when we opened," Buchan explains. "We focused on a set of core beers. I brewed the hell out of them as a homebrewer and tried to understand them. Luckily, they scaled up well to our ten-barrel system. We also have friends with really good palates and experience in the brewing industry and we opened things up for their constructive criticism."
Cerebral will eventually have twelve beers on tap; the brewery also has two nitro lines. It also has one of the few Crowler machines in the city of Denver. Crowler machines, created by Oskar Blues, allow breweries to fill 32-ounce cans on-site for people to take to go, much like glass growlers. The machines can purge oxygen and create a close seal that keeps the beer fresher longer. There are also Crowler machines at Great Divide's new Barrel Bar and at Lost Highway Brewing.
Located inside the former Galaxie auto body shop, which is being redeveloped into a small restaurant complex that will include Humble Pie, Cerebral is at the corner of Colfax and Monroe Street, bringing craft beer to the nexus of several neighborhoods — Park Hill, City Park, Mayfair and Congress Park — that don't have much of it. So far, Buchan says the customer base has been mostly locals, from families and longtime residents to people who want to have a beer before checking out shows at Lost Lake Lounge or the Bluebird.
Cerebral, which is technically at 1477 Monroe Street, will be open today and closed on Thanksgiving. It will open again on Friday through the weekend. After that, the brewery should maintain regular hours Tuesdays through Sundays.
Humble Pie will host a pie pop-up shop at Cerebral this Friday and Saturday, "pie-bombing" the place by offering a small number of free samples. Humble Pie is expected to open next door to Cerebral at the end of this year or early next year.