Grist Brewing Owner Says Suburban Denver Beer Makers Get No Respect

Grist's beer menu balances science and creativity.EXPAND
Grist's beer menu balances science and creativity.
Jonathan Shikes

When Rob Kevwitch opened Grist Brewing in late 2013, he picked Highlands Ranch for one reason: “I grew up here,” he says, and “this neighborhood needed a brewery, dammit. I was so tired of driving to Denver.”

But even after two successful years, an expansion and the implementation of rigorous quality-control techniques, Kevwitch, who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, feels like he's getting shorted – or at least overlooked — by hip Denver beer geeks, by the media, by other breweries who don't respect the southern suburbs. So he wrote a rant and published it on the bottom of Grist's home page, fully expecting that no one would read it. (The rant has since been replaced by a discussion of another subject, but you can see the entire entry at the bottom of this page.)

“I'm frustrated with all the breweries opening up in Denver that are ‘amazing’ and ‘poised for success’ and ‘breweries to keep an eye on’ just because they are in Denver. Does being in the city limits make the beer better?...No,” he wrote. “Geographic location, certainly inside city limits versus outside city limits, has nothing to do with how great your beer is. It's not like us brewers are growing all of our own raw materials like vintners do, thus making the ground to which the brewery rests on sacred. No, all of our grain and hops come from the same commercial sources grown throughout the world with few exceptions.

"I just wish the media would stop making a big deal about another brewery opening in Denver while paying no attention to those of us that took a risk by not opening where there are thousands of guaranteed craft beer drinkers that will put anything in their mouth regardless of how bitter, sour, or funky it is.”

Kevwitch also chafed against the star power that certain brewers have when they leave an established brewery to start their own place. “Does working at another brewery before opening your own guarantee you make great beer? I think this is a definite ‘no,’” he wrote. “Certainly there are stories on both sides of that equation. Great successes with phenomenal beer and epic failures with terrible beer. So again, media folks, stop kissing the ass of the folks that opened their own brewery after working for an amazing brewery while referencing how great the beer was at the last brewery they worked for and assuming everything at their new brewery will be amazing. I mean seriously, if these folks wanted to be associated with their past employer, wouldn't they just have stayed employed there and not opened their own?”

Brash. Biting. A little bitter? Yes, perhaps. But Kevwitch certainly has a point when it comes to the care and creativity that he has poured into his beers and his brewery — and it’s hard to argue with that.

Grist is currently canning four beers.EXPAND
Grist is currently canning four beers.
Jonathan Shikes

Grist’s menu would fit right in at any Denver brewery. It includes a mix of standard styles, like a kolsch, a hefeweizen, a milk stout and an English-style IPA, along with a rotating list of experimental brews, like a dark, Belgian strong ale aged in whiskey barrels, a New England-style IPA and a S’mores stout, which was brewed with one hundred pounds of graham crackers and marshmallows, dried milk and cocoa nibs.

Since the brewery’s tagline is “Science balanced with creativity,” Grist calls the core lineup its Science Beers: “We analyze them on the UV-Vis spectrometer for IBU and SRM, we count yeast cells before pitching, we match OG and FG, all that so we can assure every batch is the same and every time you order a Science Beer you know what you are getting,” the brewery says. Then there are the Creative Beers, “one-off, seasonal, specialty beers that we don't try to match with anything else. We like the Creative Beers to be a little different. A little bit out of style. However, still approachable,” Grist’s website reads.

Despite the variety, Kevwtich says that Grist has had “a rough time with the Denver crowd. They say we’re not as creative as Denver.” If that’s the case, it’s because the majority of his regulars stick to the core lineup, so that is what he brews the most of. “They might try one from the Creative list, but they will go back to the Science ones. The Creative beers sell out at festivals, though.”

Grist Brewing Owner Says Suburban Denver Beer Makers Get No RespectEXPAND
Jonathan Shikes

Aside from the beers, the spacious tap room, organized around a large rectangular bar, is packed with charm and useful amenities, like flat-screen TVs, a counter-pressure growler filler and a Crowler machine, not to mention a cooler of canned and bottled beers for sale. As for decor, it includes a snappy, multi-colored neon sign, fermentation tanks that sit so close to customers they can touch them, and an old-school balance hanging on the wall, which symbolizes the balance between science and creativity.

So why aren’t Denverites making their way to Highlands Ranch? Kevwitch says some may have had bad experiences at a few breweries in the southern suburbs. “I hate to say this, but there is a reason why some people might think that the stuff from the ‘burbs isn’t as good. Some are putting out subpar beer. But I can go to Denver and find bad beer, too. There is just less of it.”

And Grist cellarman and tap-room worker Steve Nolan says the distance is an obvious factor: “We get it from a consumer standpoint. Would you drive an extra thirty minutes if there is a good brewery close by?” he asks. But Nolan also points out that sour-beer lovers are driving four hours to Glenwood Springs once a month to stand in line at Casey Brewing & Blending, which was founded two years ago by Troy Casey and has since developed a cult following. “His beers are great. They blow my mind. But there is so much hype around them,” Nolan says. “It just takes one to put you on the map.”

Oddly, the beer that Grist is most known for is its Berliner Weisse, a tart, low-alcohol wheat beer that is traditionally served with a variety of syrups. This German specialty had all but disappeared in the United States until craft brewers began bringing it back several years ago. But it’s one of several beers that Grist cans or bottles and sells in liquor stores in the metro area.

The brewery also recently began packaging Skiing in Jeans, an unusual 6.9 percent ABV German-style bock beer made with wildflower honey and Texas pecans (it was a collaboration with No Label Brewing in Katy, Texas). And there's an excellent Russian Imperial Stout, along with a barrel-aged version and several different Belgian-style ales.

Now, here is Kevwitch’s full rant:

I'm frustrated with all the breweries opening up in Denver that are "amazing" and "poised for success" and "breweries to keep an eye on" just because they are in Denver. Does being in the city limits make the beer better? Does working at another brewery first mean you automatically make better beer?

Personally, I think the answer to both of those questions is "no." Geographic location, certainly inside city limits versus outside city limits, has nothing to do with how great your beer is. It's not like us brewers are growing all of our own raw materials like vintners do, thus making the ground to which the brewery rests on sacred. No, all of our grain and hops come from the same commercial sources grown throughout the world with few exceptions. I just wish the media would stop making a big deal about another brewery opening in Denver while paying no attention to those of us that took a risk by not opening where there are thousands of guaranteed craft beer drinkers that will put anything in their mouth regardless of how bitter, sour, or funky it is.

So then, does working at another brewery before opening your own guarantee you make great beer? I think this is a definite "no" as well. Certainly there are stories on both sides of that equation. Great successes with phenomenal beer and epic failures with terrible beer. So again, media folks, stop kissing the ass of the folks that opened their own brewery after working for an amazing brewery while referencing how great the beer was at the last brewery they worked for and assuming everything at their new brewery will be amazing. I mean seriously, if these folks wanted to be associated with their past employer, wouldn't they just have stayed employed there and not opened their own? I can't speak for them of course, but I would guess not. Furthermore, just like coaching in football, being a great assistant coach under a great head coach doesn't automatically mean you will make a great head coach (search Josh McDaniels if you disagree with that statement).

So anyway, I hope us folks in the burbs that are putting out some great beer regardless of our employment pedigree and address start getting some recognition for what we are doing. If you are interested in making a comment, because you actually took the time to read this, post on our Facebook page or drop us a line. You know you'll always get the honest response from Rob, even if it isn't a politically correct response.

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Grist Brewing

9150 Commerce Center Circle
Littleton, CO 80129

720-360-4782

gristbrewingcompany.com


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