Keepers of the Craft
By pursuing their ambition and following their heart, Colorado’s Purpose Brewing and Cellars and the thousands of small and independent breweries like it play a much bigger role in keeping the “craft” in beer than even the industry’s largest brewers.
“I’VE NEVER SEEN ART repeated,” Peter Bouckaert says in the course of describing the intent behind Purpose Brewing and Cellars. “Whenever you come in, we want you to be surprised by what’s on tap. Maybe you’re going to love it, maybe you’re going to hate it, but that’s okay because art comes in many forms.”
Given Bouckaert’s twenty-one-year tenure as brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Company and his influence as a vanguard brewer in the craft-beer movement, odds are that customers will find plenty to appreciate among the beers created at Purpose Brewing, a newly opened nanobrewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Bouckaert and his wife, Frezi, are partners with husband-and-wife Zach and Laura Wilson in the venture. As Bouckaert transitions from his high-profile role at New Belgium, the country’s fourth largest craft brewer, he is looking forward to rekindling a more direct connection with the brewers’ art. Rather than striving for scale, repeatability, continuous growth, and market penetration, Purpose Brewing is wholly dedicated to the celebration of beauty—and fleeting beauty, at that.
Batch sizes are miniscule—bouckaert and Wilson are brewing on a 4-hectoliter system—and distribution will largely be limited to the beers that pass across the bar to customers in the small tasting room. When the lease is up on their current storefront location, the partners plan to establish more permanent roots for Purpose Brewing on a small farm on the outskirts of town where they can grow more of their own ingredients and patrons can enjoy a bucolic atmosphere as they sip beers inspired by the natural setting.
“When you pick up a 6-pack of beer from a liquor store, you’re not necessarily thinking or concerned about what ingredients went into it and where the ingredients came from,” Wilson says. “And there’s nothing wrong with that, but we’re trying to do something that’s maybe a little more similar to a winery, in the sense that it brings the customer just a little bit closer to nature.
“We want to make beers that represent the moment,” he says. “We’re not so much focused on style as on interpretations of what we feel in our hearts. We really hope that we can do justice to the ingredients that we use by turning them into something that’s purely and truly unique. It’s art; it’s not something we can re-create, and we’re okay with that.”
Thanks to Big Beer
In many ways, small-scale resolutely artisanal breweries such as Purpose Brewing would not exist without big beer. The craft-beer movement began with a handful of ambitious homebrewers who built businesses around offering more flavorful and diverse alternatives to mass-produced light lagers. As those breweries grew and helped change consumers’ perceptions about what constitutes American beer, many of those early pioneers grew into the cornerstones of what would become the craft-beer industry. And as craft beer continues to mature and gain market share, much of the focus has shifted to the growing creep of big beer’s influence and investment interest in the industry and the increasingly blurred boundary that distinguishes “craft” from “beer.”
It’s an important distinction to make clear and one that the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade organization dedicated to promoting and protecting small and independent American brewers, is wholly invested in defending. And while the often divisive moves happening at the pinnacles of craft garner the lion’s