The Germans have been brewing lagers the same way for hundreds of years. So when Ashleigh Carter and Bill Eye open Bierstadt Lagerhaus on Saturday inside the building that also houses the Rackhouse, they have no intention of changing things up. “No flair, no twist, no added things,” says Carter. “We want to be as traditional as possible. You come here to our place, and it will be like getting off a plane in Munich.”
To do that, Carter and Eye traveled to the Bavarian town of Ammerndorf two years ago to buy a thirty-barrel copper brewing system built in 1932; the brewery they bought it from was upgrading. “They scrapped a lot of brewhouses to make bullets during World War II in Germany,” explains Carter, who points out that Ammerndorf is only about eighteen kilometers from the infamous Nazi rallying headquarters in Nuremberg. “So the fact that the brewhouse survived makes it an amazing piece of history.”
Before moving the system, though, Carter returned to Germany to “crawl all over it,” photograph it and learn how it was used and built so that she and Eye could reconstruct it in Denver — after all, there was no 1932 instruction manual. Still, it's been a long process to get the place up and running: The two brewers and restaurateur Chris Rippe, who opened the Rackhouse in December, had hoped to debut Bierstadt in 2015, but they suffered a variety of construction and permitting-related delays.
But at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the brewery — which can be seen from the Rackhouse’s second-story mezzanine — will finally make its debut, pouring a Dunkel, a Helles, an India Pale Lager (made in collaboration with Comrade Brewing) and a Pils. Not a “pilsner,” mind you, but a “Pils.” Carter says Bierstadt wants to make the distinction because pilsners have developed a bad name in certain circles in the United States; besides, they are often called by the shortened version of the word in Germany.
But getting rid of that bad name is just the start of what Eye wants to do. His real goal is to replace every Stella Artois tap handle in the surrounding neighborhoods in Denver with Bierstadt Pils, in the same way that Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing has knocked out Guinness handles with its own Milk Stout Nitro.
“That was the inspiration,” says Eye, who adds that while craft beer is certainly popular, he believes that people are even more driven by “drinking local.” To help replace those Stella handles, Bierstadt will offer its own distinctive glassware to its accounts, along with a lesson in how to present the Pils.
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And Bierstadt plans to stay focused on that goal. The brewery will be less “recipe-driven,” while only making a few styles of beer in larger quantities than most craft breweries. Lagers, which use a different kind of yeast than ales, typically take six to ten weeks to make, as opposed to ales, which only need about three. “I like doing the same thing over and over and over again. I’m sadistic like that,” Carter jokes. “Bill and I really love the process of it — the slow way of doing things — and the technique. We love the consistency of it.”
The two have been doing things the slow way for a long time. Eye was the head brewer at Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora in 2009, when it won Smaller Brewing Company of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival, along with several medals. He later hired Carter before both brewers left for Prost Brewing, which opened in 2012 and won several awards itself.
After a dispute with the other owners at Prost, though, Eye and Carter decided to start a new place together. They connected with Rippe, who had just shuttered the original incarnation of his Rackhouse Pub on South Kalamath Street after five years, and went into business together.
The Rackhouse, a full-service restaurant and bar, will serve as the tasting room for Bierstadt, along with C Squared Ciders, which is located in the same building and owned by Andy Brown, formerly of the Wynkoop Brewing Company. To join in on the opening celebration on Saturday, go to nightout.com to buy $5 tickets online, or just show up. A ticket gets you a beer and entry into a drawing for prizes. There will also be live music, food, bar games, door prizes and brewery tours.