TRVE Brew­ing Co.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By Jamie Bogner

Den­ver, Colorado’s TRVE Brew­ing is a po­ten­tially po­lar­iz­ing place. The tap­room (also home to the orig­i­nal brew­house) may be the dark­est in craft beer, with the black walls, dim light­ing, can­dles, pen­ta­grams, and skulls you’d ex­pect from a brew­ery run by ded­i­cated me­tal­heads. But take one sip of the beer, and any sus­pi­cion of kitsch melts away as the im­pec­ca­bly crafted and thought­fully de­signed beer takes cen­ter stage.

TRVE IS A STUDY IN CON­TRASTS—

the in­tim­i­dat­ing tap­room en­vi­ron­ment and brusque brand­ing starkly con­trast with their ap­proach­able and ses­sion­able beer and the warm and friendly de­meanor of Founder Nick Nunns. But that edge— con­found­ing ex­pec­ta­tions or as­sump­tions and push­ing peo­ple to en­gage more di­rectly with each other and the beer—is what makes the brew­ery such a pow­er­ful idea. It’s not a brew­ery that wants to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­body, and that’s ex­actly how Nunns likes it.

“I never wanted to be just an­other tap­room in town. I want to be the one that peo­ple are ei­ther like, ‘Oh fuck, this place is weird and cool, and I love it,’ or they’re like, ‘It’s scary. I’m go­ing to go now.’ We get a hand­ful of Iowans who take two steps in and peel out pretty quick,” says Nunns.

“We chose to make [our brew­ery] a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. And as such, we have latched onto a to­tally dif­fer­ent sub­set of peo­ple who want to come in here, and those peo­ple are diehard fans.

“If you have sixty or sev­enty brew­eries in a city and they’re all do­ing ‘some­thing for ev­ery­body,’ how the fuck do you stand out? How do you be­come a brew­ery that peo­ple ac­tu­ally want to go to? If [all] sev­enty brew­eries here in Den­ver do the ex­act same thing, how do you get any fans?”

It may be seen by some as a risky propo­si­tion, but as Nunns says, “It’s not nearly as risky as just be­ing the ubiq­ui­tous sameish brew­ery.”

This all-in ap­proach to the brand and the busi­ness—creat­ing the place they them­selves want to spend time in and build­ing a tap­room en­vi­ron­ment that re­flects an aes­thetic and phi­los­o­phy that is clearly not for ev­ery­one—re­flects what Nunns calls his de­sire to be “the coun­ter­cul­ture to the coun­ter­cul­ture.” If all craft beer looks the same, and ev­ery­one’s mak­ing the same tur­bid IPA or same sickly sweet dessert stout and sell­ing it out of a tap­room with Edi­son bulb light­ing, re­claimed wood, and cor­ru­gated metal, then have we lost what makes craft beer great?

“I think the ex­pe­ri­ence is the part that a lot of peo­ple don’t think about,” says Nunns. “In such a ma­ture mar­ket, it’s not okay just to make a re­ally good beer. It’s not enough. You have to do some­thing else. You have to have an an­gle. If you don’t have an an­gle for your tap­room or what your brew­ery rep­re­sents or what you’re do­ing, no­body is go­ing to give an ab­so­lute fuck about what you’re do­ing. It needs to be dif­fer­ent. Creat­ing some sort of cul­ture that peo­ple can latch onto is so im­por­tant.”

Sim­plic­ity, and In­gre­di­ents, Mat­ter

The ten­dency with a brew­ery like TRVE is to fo­cus on the aes­thetic and cul­ture alone, but the brew­ery is no car­ni­val act, and that nar­row view over­looks a fun­da­men­tal point—they make very, very good beer. It’s been a process of it­er­a­tion and im­prove­ment since the ear­li­est days of the brew­ery, but over their 5 years of life, they’ve gone from good to great, and—in the case of some of their beers—even world-class.

Their suc­cess is driven by a fun­da­men­tal phi­los­o­phy based in sim­plic­ity. Don’t

“I’m baf­fled that you’re still see­ing brew­eries in Colorado who are mak­ing fun of hazy IPA,” says Nunns. “I am blown away by that. This is a le­git­i­mate style lit­er­ally ev­ery­where else [in the coun­try]. It’s al­most like the brew­ing in­dus­try here is so long­stand­ing that we have these re­li­gious zealots about how brew­eries should act. Why is it okay for He­feweizen to have that level of haze but not an IPA? This is not even a dis­cus­sion we should be having.”

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