Since Prost Brewing opened nearly eight years ago, the LoHi brewery has leaned heavily on German beer traditions, from its vintage Bavarian copper brewing system to the true-to-style German lagers and ales it turns out, and from the German food that is served during special events to the Munich-worthy stammtisch seating area.
But in 2018, David DeLine, whose family had been one of the original six investors in Prost, bought the other owners out, took over day-to-day management of the operation, and began making changes. Although DeLine has German ancestry on both sides of his family and believes wholeheartedly in Old World lager brewing, he also understands that there is a difference between honoring traditions — and being trapped by them.
"I love Prost and what it represents," says DeLine, a former hedge fund manager and investment banker. "We have all of our ingredients shipped here from Germany, [and] we use horizontal lagering and decoction." But he also acknowledges that Prost is in Denver, and in Denver, a brewery needs to stand out.
DeLine began by renovating the taproom at 2540 19th Street, as well as Prost's second location in Fort Collins, incorporating "modern design and aesthetics" into the traditional German decor. Then he updated Prost's logo and branding. "Some of our brand imagery had a touch of hokeyness without truly representing what German beer is about," he says. "But the quality of the beer has always been excellent. So we launched a campaign to bring the rest of the experience up to the level of the quality of the beer."
Now it's time for the next phase. On Thursday, Prost will introduce a lineup of brightly colored cans that will entirely replace the bottles it has been using. In doing so, Prost becomes possibly the last brewery with a mid-sized distribution footprint in Colorado to make the switch (following Funkwerks last month).
"We are really excited for these to hit the market in time for summer and beer-drinking season. I wish we could celebrate more and throw a big launch party, but we are very excited to get these on shelves," DeLine says.
"A lager in a can. Nothing beats it. All I want to drink every day is a pilsner in a can," he adds.
Of course, Coloradans are doing a lot of that these days. Not only have craft-brewed lagers surged in popularity over the past two years, but cans have overtaken bottles as the craft-beer container of choice. And although people won't be drinking them in nearly as many public places this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, they will certainly be buying six-packs for small backyard, socially-distanced non-gatherings.
"It will be very interesting to see how habits evolve as this continues," DeLine says about the current state of pandemic America. "People are still drinking; they've just changed where they are doing it."
Prost has five year-round beers: Pilsner, Vienna Lager and Dunkel, which are lagers, along with Kolsch and Weissbier, which are both ales. It will also can its seasonal offerings, which in the past have included Radler, Dopplebock, Marzen, Maibock, Helles and Altbier.
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"You look at the shelf space now, and it is dominated by cans," DeLine adds. "We think ours are really going to have a billboard effect with the color lineup and make a statement on the shelf."
And DeLine probably won't stop with cans. Before the pandemic, he was exploring a variety of other moves to upgrade and update the experience at Prost. Most of those have been put on hold for now, but they could restart once the world begins to return to some form of normalcy.
For starters, Prost plans to begin distributing cans into other states at some point this summer. After that, DeLine and his father, who helps him operate the brewery, will explore the idea of building their own canning facility in a separate location so they can package the beer themselves.
And finally, Prost has applied for a brewpub license that would allow it to build a kitchen and serve food or to work with a permanent food vendor of some sort. "The goal with Prost is to make it a flagship destination where it is Oktoberfest every day," he says. "I want to make it into what I know it can be."