On Location: TRVE Brewing Co. in Denver
The first thing you notice as your eyes adjust to the dimly lighted space that houses TRVE Brewing Co. is the music. The pounding drums, pulsating bass line, frenetic electric guitar and grating vocals scream heavy metal and provide an in-your-face introduction to the environs. TRVE (pronounced “True”) is Denver’s original heavy metal brewery, and the theme permeates the atmospheric taproom.
The walls are gray and black, and display a collection of oversized black-and-white photographs depicting decaying rural houses set in unkempt landscapes of overgrown grasses and gnarled leafless trees. Drinkers sitting at the long wooden bar face a cluster of tap handles framed on each side by graphic images portraying demonic robed animals. On a shelf above the taps sits an assortment of candles, deer antlers and bleached-out animal skulls.
As a Friday afternoon crowd slowly fills the room, groups sit dispersed along a large communal picnic-style table, constructed of impressive 30-foot-long contiguous boards, which dominates the front section of the long, narrow space. The small, open brew house, unattended at this hour, resides in the back of the building and includes a half-dozen modestly sized stainless steel vessels lined up side-by-side. Miscellaneous brewing accessories hang in a tidy arrangement on the back wall.
Amid the room’s raucous music and dark imagery, the youngish crowd is surprisingly average-looking and not necessarily reflective of the neighborhood’s roguish street dwellers. In fact, it was the area’s counter-culture vibe that prompted brewery owner Nick Nunns to locate TRVE (227 Broadway #101) on this strip of bustling Broadway two miles south of downtown Denver. “It’s got more weirdos. It’s got more of a punk rock, hipster metal head thing going on here,” Nunns told me during my first visit to the brewery in 2013, the year after TRVE opened. At this time of day, however, much of the foot traffic passing the open garage door facing the street consists of joggers coming and going from the fitness studio next door.
If the taproom exudes a certain gloominess, it doesn’t reflect the attitude—or lack of attitude—of the wait staff. Two black-clad, tattooed servers—one male, one female—are entirely pleasant and accommodating as they describe the house beers, fill pint and taster-size glasses and chat it up with the regulars across the bar.
Just as the tasting room has a distinct theme, so too do the eight draft beers, and that theme may surprise you. With the exception of the 6.6% Tunnel of Trees IPA (all beer names reference song or album titles), the beers are quite restrained in their alcohol content, fitting squarely in the genre of “session beers,” though Nunns prefers the term “crushable.” “We like the music to be loud but the beers to be subtle,” he explains.
Stylewise, they’re an eclectic mix featuring loose interpretations of English, American, German and Belgian styles. Within that framework, TRVE beers possess clean, distinct flavors that manage to be both satisfying and drinkable in some quantity without major impacts on your equilibrium. If your tastes tend toward more exotic libations, a small selection of bottled sour beers is generally available. These are brewed a few miles away in a sour-beer-only production facility nicknamed the Acid Temple.
While TRVE’s heavy metal theme is done without irony, the scene is not without levity. As I wrap up my visit, I see a sign on the bar that reads, “Employees Must Carve Slayer Into Forearms Before Returning to Work.”