For the past five years, Troy Casey has worked for AC Golden, the MillerCoors-owned beer incubator in Golden that makes everything from Colorado Native lager to small-batch sour ales that use Colorado-grown peaches and apricots to the style-busting India Pale Lager that just won an award at the Great American Beer Festival.
Over that time, Casey has helped AC Golden develop a cachet and a distinctive reputation among craft beer drinkers despite its corporate parent and its lack of a tasting room.
Now Casey is leaving to open his own artisan brewery in or near Glenwood Springs, Casey Brewing & Blending, where he will focus on "the art of blending beer."
The process will work this like: Casey will hire Chase Engel, who is planning to open a brewery, Roaring Fork Beer Company, in Carbondale next spring, to contract-brew his wort, which is what beer is called before it has been fermented.
Then Casey will transport the wort to his own facility (he is still looking for a location) in order to add a variety of different yeast stains and to age all of it in oak barrels. After that, he'll "bring together unique flavors from several different barrels to create beers with characteristics that are impossible to create any other way."
It's similar to what Crooked Stave's Chad Yakobson does in Denver, as well as what some of the old-world Belgian lambic brewers did, Casey says.
"The most romantic part is the actual brewing process, but I've always loved the fermentation," he explains. "I have no problem having someone else brew my wort because that is not where my talents will be shown. Mine are in adding the yeast strains and in blending the beers. If I never brew, I won't have a problem with that."
Casey, who has a master's degree from the University of California at Davis, got his start brewing in Colorado Springs, but joined AC Golden in 2008, shortly after MillerCoors created the tiny enterprise. Since then, he's focused on lagers, which is what AC Golden specializes in, but has also produced a variety of barrel-aged ales.
AC Golden started its sour and wild ale program in April of 2009. "We had no idea what we were doing, we just knew we liked those beers," he says. Over time, though, they became some of the most sought-after sours in Colorado and helped to change people's opinions about AC Golden and MillerCoors.
AC Golden uses almost entirely Colorado-grown malt, hops and fruit in its beers, and that is what Casey plans to do with his own brewery. "We'll be really close to the growing regions on the Western Slope, and I'm really excited about that," he says.
Casey chose the Glenwood area because his girlfriend moved there earlier this year for a job, but also because he loves the Roaring Fork Valley and wants to be located in a part of the state where people go on vacation -- similar to what Elevation Beer Company did when they opened in the mountain town of Poncha Springs in 2012.
"If I opened in Denver, I'd be able to sell more beer through the tasting room. This way, I'll be packaging a lot more than some new breweries might. But we want to be in the mountains, and we figure, if we brew it, people will come," he explains.
One of Casey's best memories from college was making the three-hour trip from Davis to Chico, California, to visit the home of Sierra Nevada. "It was such a destination place, and that is what we want. The fact that we won't be in the majority of our consumers's backyards will make that experience more exciting for them when they come to visit."
Casey will leave AC Golden next week and begin hunting for a location; he hopes to get open sometime in 2014. One of his first beers will likely be a saison that takes three months to make, which is a long time for a beer, but short compared to most of the beers he plans to produce. "That will allow me to age some of the others," he says.
All of his beers will be fermented or aged with brettanomyces, lactobaccilus and other agents to varying degrees, even the saison. "There will be wild ales that are reminiscent of lambics because that is what I like to drink. It will be a beer lover's paradise."
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