Beer Man

The hip Former Future Brewing takes a double-barreled fundraising approach

Former Future Brewing, which will open its doors on South Broadway this fall, is the latest small Denver brewery to offer paid memberships as a way to raise money and build support from locals who are willing to pay to be part of an exclusive beer club.

But the brewery, which will focus on wild and sour ales, has also launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to raise $20,000 to pay for an extra fermenter, oak barrels that will allow Former Future to begin barrel-aging right away, and a "coolship," a shallow pan traditionally used to allow the spontaneous fermentation of beer.

See also: Former Future Brewing will take a spot on South Broadway's Antique Row

"Brewing is all about capacity, and we have enough already that we can open and be in the black," says James Howat, who's opening Former Future with his wife, Sarah. "But we want to do other cool stuff as well."

Coolships are most commonly associated with Belgium, and there are currently only about a dozen being used in the United States. Colorado will get its first when Crooked Stave opens its new pilot brewery in the Source next month.

And while brewery crowdfunding campaigns have had mixed results over the past few years in Colorado, Former Future may have hit a sweet spot in terms of timing (during the madness leading up the Great American Beer Festival in October), beer trends (sour ales are the hottest thing going), location (along hip South Broadway, where the brewery's Steampunk ethos is sure to play well) and the products and experiences that the Howats are offering in exchange for donations.

"We asked our fans on Facebook what they would want out of a Kickstarter, and far and way they were asking for experiential rewards," James says. "People like T-shirts and schwag, but experiences --and the memories of them -- last forever."

For instance, people who give $20 can have their homebrews critiqued by the Howats at a monthly homebrewers roundtable, while those who donate $30 can take part in one of two classes -- the first learning how to bake with spent grain and beer with the owners of Spent!, and the second learning how to select different spices and brew with them from the owner of the Old Town Spice Shop in Fort Collins, who works with New Belgium.

Those who donate $250 get a pick an ingredient that Former Future will add to one of its beers - that you choose -- and serve on cask for a week; pledge $500 and you can design a recipe and brew it with James on the Former Future pilot system. Afterward, you can have it critiqued by the staff; if it's good, it stays on tap until its gone.

As of Monday afternoon, the Kickstarter campaign - which began on September 5 and ends on October 5 -- had raised about $1,400 toward its $20,000 goal.

Originally, the Howats had planned to offer memberships as part of that campaign, but Kickstarter told them they couldn't do that. So the couple is selling them in waves as part of a separate effort. They currently cost $175, although that amount will rise in $25 increments. Members of the Former Future Federation for Friends of Fermentation get a T-shirt, two growlers, early access to limited bottle releases and a special bottle just for members, early sign-up for events, access to a secret tap, and more.

The Howats, who will specialize in "futuristic interpretations of historical styles," signed a lease for their spot on South Broadway's Antique Row in July. They have a 3.5-barrel brewing system and several fermenters purchased from TRVE Brewing. The coolship will also be 3.5 barrels.

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