Beer Man

There's Something Spontaneous in the Air at TRVE Brewing

Wavering Radiant debuts Saturday.
Wavering Radiant debuts Saturday. TRVE Brewing
TRVE Brewing, which has always eschewed trends in favor of doing things its own way, will release one of the company's most unusual bottled beers to-date on Saturday, December 2. Wavering Radiant is a wild/sour ale that was spontaneously fermented using yeasts and microbes that are floating in the air in Denver. In doing this, TRVE joins just a handful of breweries in Colorado and across the country that are making beer this way.

"This one's a big deal for us," says TRVE founder Nick Nunns, adding that head brewer Zach Coleman has been wanting to make a spontaneously fermented beer since 2013.

To do so, TRVE bought a ten-barrel open-topped dairy tank — known as a coolship — from Call to Arms Brewing, which it keeps at its production facility, known as the Acid Temple, rather than at the main taproom at 227 Broadway. Coleman filled the coolship with wort (unfermented beer), which was allowed to sit overnight so that the naturally occurring microflora could inoculate the wort. Nunns declines to say how TRVE does this, but the vessels are typically left outside on cool nights or in rooms with open windows.

"We have a proprietary method for exposing our coolship to the ambient air around the Acid Temple," he says in an email. "We’re keeping that method closely guarded."

click to enlarge Zach Coleman and Nick Nunns do things differently. - TRVE BREWING
Zach Coleman and Nick Nunns do things differently.
TRVE Brewing
In Belgium, where spontaneously fermented beers have been brewed for centuries, the styles are usually called lambic or gueuze. Lambics are often young beers, while gueuze beers are blends of multiple lambic vintages that are allowed to re-ferment in the bottle. In the United States, a few breweries have experimented with the style over the past decade. Earlier this year, in an effort to honor Belgium's tradition without appropriating the words "lambic" and "gueuze," a coalition of of U.S. breweries led by Austin's Jester King came up with its own terminology and mark to denote its beers, which is now called Methode Traditionnelle.

But TRVE's crew isn't big on conforming to terminology and marks. In September, Coleman penned an essay outlining his respect for the idea of Methode Traditionnelle and his reasoning for deciding not to use it.

"As an absurdist who chooses to live a life of meaningful rebellion, I do not think that Methode Traditionnelle aligns with TRVE," he wrote. "I mention absurdity and rebellion because it informs the beers we make at TRVE, and, as such, is representative of our intent. I want to push the boundaries of what is possible but also push our drinkers out of their comfort zones. It is something that a lot of people have latched onto and appreciate about our beers. Though the concept (i.e., intent) is to establish best practices without limiting factors, the very creation of a mark demands a certain level of gate keeping. This is then inherently limiting, as it allows one to hold those accountable who choose to take part while letting those who do not remain free to proceed as willed."

And Nunns and Coleman want to remain free to proceed as willed.

So while Wavering Radiant was inspired by young lambic beers, "it was made with processes slightly different from our more traditional batches of spontaneous beer, which are still aging/fermenting in wood," Coleman says. "It is meant to be a window into what we have coming down the line from our spontaneous program.” To that end, TRVE plans to continue to make new batches of it so that they can be blended with aged beers like a gueuze.

click to enlarge TRVE BREWING
TRVE Brewing
"We do have plans to follow traditional methodology for some of our spontaneous beer (including some batches that were brewed last season), but it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t plan to experiment quite a bit as well with other methods for creating spontaneous beer," Nunns says.

Several other Colorado breweries, like Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs, Odd13 Brewing in Lafayette, Our Mutual Friend and Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales, have made spontaneously fermented beers in recent years. Black Project is notable in particular because it brews nothing but that style of beer and has gained nationwide attention — and awards — for its creations. It also garners huge lines on release days, when fans begin queuing up in the middle of the night in some cases to assure themselves of a bottle in the morning.

Nunns says he's "trying not to feed the beast of line culture," but that he understands "that a beer like this may garner more attention than some of our other releases have."

TRVE opens at noon on Saturday, when it will begin selling about 1,000 500-ml bottles of Wavering Radiant for $16 each (limit of four per person). There will also be a single five-gallon keg for on-premises consumption.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes