TRVE Brewing Co.
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.”