Beer Man

After declining sales, Arvada Beer Company reinvents its beer recipes and itself

"Every brewery gets negative feedback, so I don't worry about it too much, but I think we drifted off into middle-of-the-road beers," says Cary Floyd, who opened Arvada Beer Company in October 2011 with his wife, Kelly. "We were tending more toward the masses rather than toward the craft beer that Kelly and I really got into this for."

That's what the couple realized late last summer after business at their spot in Olde Town declined by about 30 percent over a three-month period -- and what formed the basis for their decision to reinvent their beers and their brewing technique since then.

See also: Arvada Beer Company expands

"We have changed every single recipe that we make and doing some new things that we've never done before," Floyd says. "A lot of the things are small, like mashing in at a different temperature to get a richer beer." And some are bigger, like changing the hops profile and boosting the alcohol content for their best-seller, Goldline IPA.

"Changing your best-selling beer is a big risk," Floyd notes. "But everyone is loving it. So we are going to keep doing things differently."

Arvada Beer's problems began around July when the Floyds decided that they -- and head brewer Dennis O'Harrow -- were making too many low-alcohol "session beers" that came in between 4 and 5 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV.

"People were getting bored with them," Floyd says. "They didn't stand out, and in Colorado, you have to stand out.... People told me they had stopped coming in because they said there were better beers around. Ours weren't bad, just not as good."

In the end, the Floyds -- award-winning homebrewers in their own right -- parted ways with O'Harrow over creative differences and took over the brewing themselves. "Before we opened, the original plan was that Kelly and I were going to do all the brewing ourselves, but we were overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, and I think we were a little bit afraid. That's why we got someone professional to brew the beers," he explains. "Thinking back, I'm glad we did. But it's nice having the control back."

In addition to the IPA, Arvada Beer has changed the recipes for its popular Irish Red, its holiday ale (now at 9 percent ABV) and some of its wheat beers, and added a variety of new styles to the mix, including a black wheat beer that weighs in at 8.5 percent ABV and a Vanilla Porter that has become the brewery's second-best seller.

Business is up 20 percent in the past two months over the same two months in 2012. "I used to be in the corporate world and one of the things I learned was that you have to keep reinventing yourself," Floyd says.

Although Arvada Beer had planned to begin canning some of its beers in 2013, Floyd says that plan is on hold until he figures out which of the reinvigorated beers will work in a package. "But I am more worried about the tasting room," he adds. "I need to keep people coming back and to keep growing. I am never going to sit on my laurels."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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