How big is the brewing team?
JC: It’s pretty small: me and three other guys. I do have a couple more temporaries we rely on as we move into peak season.
What’s the relationship with Sandlot?
JC: We’re friends. [laughter] Sandlot is not part of AC Golden, but it is part of MillerCoors. They get their direction from a different part of the company. They’re great brewers and, seriously, are great friends. We work with them a lot and certainly aspire to their success at the GABF. They quite often remind us that we have some catching up to do.
How many different beers do you have going at once?
JC: As you start aging your beer in wood, you can build up quite a few. We probably have in excess of half a dozen aging right now, in a few dozen barrels. Then, of course, we have our regular job keeping up with Native and Herman Joseph, and then seasonally, Winterfest, which comes out the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday.
Three? Then the rest are all experiments?
JC: Some of it is just for us to work with and taste and tweak, and it never leaves the premises. Then there’s what we call craft-centric on-premises accounts in Denver. These are the guys who pride themselves on having about every craft offering there is. We might sell them a few kegs. Then there are a few off-premises liquor stores. If we do 20 cases of a saison or a Russian imperial stout or something limited, there’s one account here that will take it all. Some of these we make just once; with others, if we find they’re well received, we’ll take a second swing at it.
Give me an idea of the range of styles you’ve brewed, at least experimentally.
JC: Everything from traditional German pilsner through Russian imperial stout. We recently brewed a traditional German alt beer. We like the German styles, and we stay fairly traditional with them. Our dunkel has gotten two medals at the GABF, and we medalled for our schwarzbier. We’ve got bocks. We’ve covered a pretty big spectrum if you look back.
How about a Berliner weisse? I think that’s a style that could have broader public appeal. I’m not sure how far the public will go with horse blanket flavors, but the clean tang of a Berliner weisse could lure some drinkers.
JC: Yeah, actually Troy was talking to me the other day about Berliner weisse, so we’ve been kicking that one around a little bit.
How did you get your start?
JC: I started homebrewing in the late eighties, reading Charlie Papazian’s book like thousands of others. I joined Coors in 2000 as a chemist―that’s my bachelor’s degree―and started studying beer chemistry pretty ravenously. Then I got the opportunity to go down the brewing path. I’m wrapping up my thesis now for a master’s from Heriot Watt University, and along the way I got to participate in a year-long rotation where I worked in every department in the Golden brewery. This company has done wonderful things for me from a brewing education point of view.
Are you a stand-alone financial entity?
GK: We are. We’re a limited liability corporation. MillerCoors owns us, and any money we make goes to them.
But you have to make payroll with what you create there?
GK: Yes, everything’s separate. Our bank is about two blocks from here. If we need to send you a check, Carol will enter it in QuickBooks, I’ll sign it, and we’ll drop it in the mail right here. But if you need a check from MillerCoors, it’ll probably end up coming from India!
We’re completely stand alone. We probably have one of the smallest breweries in Colorado, operating from inside the world’s largest single-site brewery.
You’re physically located inside the site at Golden.
GK: We’re right in the middle of the Coors brewery. You have to get through a fairly industrial area to get to our location, so we can’t take the public through there for liability reasons, but we’re right in the middle of that big monster out there.
Anything coming up that your team is excited about?
GK: Some things we can’t talk about yet, but others we can. For instance, this summer we’re going to put Colorado Native in a can: that seems to be something a number of our brothers are doing. As far as different styles of beer, we’re noodling around what we’re going to do for GABF. We’ll be there in a big way, hopefully with more success this fall. With our beers, more of them don’t go commercial than do.