(Editor’s Note: This is part of a series in which we scoured the country to find 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals under 30 years old, each of whom hopes to further the scope and breadth of the American craft beer scene.)
Charlie Berger, 29
All About Beer: Tell us about your brewery.
Charlie Berger: Denver Beer Co. is an awesome place to grab a fresh local beer, chill with old friends in the beer garden and make some new ones. My partner Patrick Crawford and I got underway in August of 2011 and have brewed over 125 unique recipes in 150 batches, including one Great American Beer Festival medal winner with batch number four.
How did you first get into brewing?
Drinking beer! I enjoyed the diversity of beers that I was able to try both while I was at college and while I studied abroad in Europe. I took my first job in a brewery at the age of 21 when I spent a summer on the bottling line at Great Divide Brewing Co. It was during that experience that I truly realized that I wanted to be a part of the craft beer industry. So I started homebrewing.
What was the first beer you ever brewed and where did you do it?
The first beer I ever brewed was a ginger beer made on the stove in a shitty rented apartment in Denver. It boiled everywhere, fermented only partially, until I put it in bottles, then it fermented great! The first commercial batch that I ever brewed was a batch of 5 day IPA at the O’Fallon Brewery with Dave Johnson and Brian Owens.
What’s your favorite beer style?
Time and place. I love IPAs pretty much 90 percent of the time, however a classic hefe has its place in the beer garden, a barleywine by the winter’s fireplace, or even a pale lager in the outfield of a Rockies game. Chile beer on Sunday mornings. An awesome porter after a long hike.
Do you have a mentor in the brewing world?
Very much so! Marc Gottfried, formerly of the Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of a pub brewery just days after I had first moved to St. Louis after college. He introduced me to the community and the culture of craft beer. He to this day is very accommodating and open with his years of knowledge and experience. I would be remiss not to mention Dave Johnson and Brian Owens of the O’Fallon brewery who watched me sweat and taught me how the 12-hour day is not the exception, it’s the norm in the brewing world. And Marty Jones of [Wynkoop Brewing Co.], he is the quintessential Idea Man and showed me that people will talk about you only if you do interesting things.
What inspires you when you’re brewing?
The season! I love to use ingredients that are fresh, in season, or have some association with the weather. Pumpkins in the fall, juniper or anise in the winter. In spring, lavender or lemongrass seems to fit, and summer is citrus season!
What do you attribute to your success?
I think I have had success in this industry because of my willingness to work long hours, be flexible and innovative, dedication to creating awesome beers, and ability to have some fun while doing all of it.
What do you think drives the popularity of craft beer?
Craft beer is interesting. It has a story. The craft beer drinker is interested in where it came from, how it was made, how much was brewed, why it has some crazy name. It has complexity, and a depth of flavor that can change as it warms in your glass. It can be sweet, strong, sour, or bitter. The variety forces every drinker to push the bounds of what they have tasted before. What’s not to love about craft beer?
In general, how do you think the next generation of brewers will shake up the craft beer world?
I hope that the shake up comes in the form of market penetration and growth of strong regional breweries. How cool is it to travel and get beers that you can’t find anywhere else? How cool is it to know that the cold beer in your hand came from right down the street? I hope that we go from 5 percent market share to greater than 25 percent. I would like to see craft beer grow, and grow locally. If every local brewery could grow by volume while restricting distribution to their home state or region, it would be really cool for the industry and very good for the environment.
In particular, how will you contribute to that shake up?
I’m gonna brew great beer, keep it local, and win over macro drinkers by emphasizing quality not quantity.
Last one: Cascadian Dark Ale or Black IPA?
I’ll give it to the guys who pioneered it, Cascadian Dark Ale.
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