At first glance, Seedstock Brewery looks like any other Denver brewery. There’s live bluegrass most weeks, trivia on Tuesdays and cornhole on the patio. Seedstock hosts food trucks on busy nights and an art market on Sundays, and it just added yoga classes with rescued pigs. A busy Crowler machine whirs behind the bar, and the brewery’s IPA is, of course, the biggest seller.
Take a look at the rest of tap list, however, and Seedstock is unique. One of just half a dozen or so Colorado breweries that focus heavily or entirely on lagers, Seedstock is the only one that regularly brews four or five Czech styles that will have you turning to Google for a lesson on the beers from the Old Country.
There’s the Bohemian pilsner, with a fuller hops profile than that of many German pilsners; a Czech lager that glows a ruddy red and exudes a bready flavor with a slight hint of caramel; and the polotmavy, or “half-dark” lager, which is crisper and sweeter than the others. Beyond that, Seedstock makes its own takes on Czech-style beers, like the Bohemian Barn Beer, and German-style brews such as dunkel, doppelbock, Kolsch and altbier.
You’ll also find a more American vanilla espresso stout and the IPA, a toned-down version of the style. But you won’t find tart beers or fruit beers, and you definitely won’t find hazy IPAs.
And that's unusual, especially in this competitive period in the craft-beer world, when breweries big and small have leaned more toward the styles that customers are demanding — juicy, hazy IPAs being a prime example — rather than the styles that the brewery itself wants to make.
Seedstock co-owner Ron Abbott doesn’t mind a good hazy IPA (in fact, he’s a true beer nerd who appreciates many different styles). But he and his brother, head brewer and co-owner Jason Abbott, just don’t want to brew them. And so far, they haven’t had to. “I’d love to say that I was smarter than everyone else, but that’s not it,” Abbott says with a laugh. “We’re just smaller than many other places. We don’t have the overhead.”
In other words, Abbott can literally afford to say no. Not that it’s easy. “For many people, the mindset is that if you are a craft brewery, you should have a sour and a New England IPA — that you should be trying to differentiate yourself by pushing the envelope,” he explains.
He believes it's a shame that some breweries have turned away from "their bread and butter" in order to make hazy IPAs, but acknowledges that it would be easy for him to throw darts at them, when in reality, he has simply benefited from his small size and costs.
But he also points out that lagers and old-world ales don’t have to equal boring or light on flavor. “Lager doesn’t mean flavorless," he says, adding that some are full of flavors and that others just need drinkers who can appreciate a sense of subtlety. Abbott, who grew up in Nebraska, likes to use an analogy that relates to his upbringing: A big steak with a little salt and pepper can be just as delicious as a fancy meal.
His customers think so, too. Although some ask for more trendy styles, most are happy with the options he has on tap, about half of which are lagers. In fact, Seedstock, which opened in 2015, is still growing, Abbott says. This year, the brewery will produce around 500 barrels of beer. Next year, it could do up to 700.
Oh, and last week, the Abbotts tapped their new Kolsch — and it took over the top spot in total sales from their IPA. “I’m not anti-IPA,” Abbott says. “But I couldn’t be happier about that."
Seedstock Brewery is located at 3600 West Colfax Avenue and is open from 2 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Call 720-476-7831 or visit the brewery's website for more details.