Powder Keg Brewing Company | Niwot, CO
101 2nd Avenue, Niwot CO 80544
Estimated Open Date: Early July, 2014
Brewing System: 4 ½ Barrel Brewhouse
Seize One Saison- 4.2 ABV, 21 IBU- A refreshing classic saison that doesn’t need much complexity but still has a tremendous flavor profile brought on from the French yeast strain. This beer is perfect for the summer months and is extremely light and refreshing. Think an creamier version of River North’s White.
Original Sin Session Pale Ale- 4.5 ABV, 42 IBU- An awesome session pale that isn’t overly hoppy but does have fantastic grapefruit notes from the onset. Those tropical flavors give way to a nice hop finish that lingers just long enough.
Totes McOats Nitro Oatmeal Stout- 5.8 ABV, 21 IBU- Likely my favorite of the group, though all three were tremendous. The Oatmeal Stout has a perfect balance of roasted chocolate-y flavors with mellow creaminess brought on by the oats. Even if it were 100 degrees out I would still drink this beer by the growlers.
The cursor on my screen has been blinking for what seems like 5 minutes now. I have started this paragraph and deleted its futile attempts at resembling some semblance of a coherent paragraph far too many times. Why the trepidation? Because I don’t want to run the risk of fumbling this writeup. To some, Powder Keg Brewing Company may appear like any other small-town neighborhood brewing operation. But if you look a little closer, you may get the same kind of jittery, spine-tingling, I-feel-like-the-first-guy-who-discovered-how-great-Lebron-James-is type excitement (no cramping here).
So what’s with the fanfare, what does Powder Keg have, that will help distinguish it from so many others? The formula boils down to the following. 1) An amazingly talented brewer who is passionate about the science behind brewing. 2) That same brewer who is willing and able to push the boundaries of taste, while still being able to master core styles. 3) A commitment to quality 4) A group of founders who trust and support the brewer‘s creative talents. 5) A collective team that is focused first on serving their community, and addressing the taste of the local residents, while keeping a pulse on the craft beer community as a whole.
At the end of 2013, the Brewers Association reported a total of 2,722 brewing facilities in operation, with another 1,744 facilities in planning. Some may argue that these numbers seem to point toward an overly saturated market. It’s true that there has been a groundswell of these neighborhood breweries over the past few years, however craft beer sales were up 15% this past year and the trend continues to climb. It’s this growth and demand in popularity that has enabled the likes of Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Prairie Artisan Ales in Krebs, OK, and soon, Powder Keg Brewing Company, out of Niwot, CO, to thrive and become cult favorites, despite being located in small communities without a strong brewing precedent.
The Powder Keg story in a sense began last May, with founder and president, Mark Krebs. Krebs had for a long time belonged to a local dinner group that met once a month at rotating houses to share meals. The group of friends wanted to take that same kinship and collaboration, that grew out of those dinners and share it with the rest of the Niwot community in the form of a brewpub.
So Krebs approached Phillip Joyce about becoming head brewer. Joyce, had worked under Krebs, as an engineer at an aviation company when he was just a junior at the University of Colorado. The two kept in touch and stayed close over the next few years and when Krebs decided to start Powder Keg, he knew exactly where to turn. Joyce, who had been homebrewing for five years, also spent time brewing with Crystal Springs Brewery in nearby Louisville as well as with Boulder’s Avery Brewing Company.
“We want to create a community space where people could walk down the street to visit us,” said Joyce. “We didn’t want to be in a warehouse district, but instead make it feel like part of the rest of the community.”
Located right next door to the Niwot post office, feeling part of the community won’t be hard to do, as the resident of Niwot don’t receive street mail. Instead, anyone with a 80544 has to pick up and deliver their mail to the city post office. That means Powder Keg Brewing Company will see a approximate volume of 800 people in foot traffic each day.
The brewery itself will feature a Saison, Oatmeal Stout, an American Style IPA, and potentially a fourth beer as their core year-round offerings. These flagships will be designed to be more sessionable and are geared towards those who wish to drop in for board games, or share a conversation. “That’s a bit harder to do if our beers are 10%,” said Joyce.
They’ll also dedicate 25% of their production towards “Chef’s Choice” beers which will focus on the creative, unique beers, like the ones area festival goers have already seen at Niwot’s New Brew Fest and at this past week’s Avery Sour Ale Festival. Those include “Mimosa”, a sour ale aged w/ mandarin oranges on champagne oak spirals, “Hibis-Kiss”, a farmhouse ale w/ brettanomyces and hibiscus, “Intergalactic Double IPA”, “Rubus Strigosus”, an American wild ale re-fermented to dryness with Willamette valley raspberries (which we should note, was so wildly popular that it kicked at the same time as The Lost Abbey’s Cuvee De Tomme at Sour Ale Festival), and “Hemispheres”, an american-style sour ale, dry hopped with Australian galaxy hops and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.
“Barrel-aged beer are the epitome of my artistic brewing desires and luckily it’s in our business plan for the future,” said Joyce. He also mentioned that the brewery would likely launch a crowd funding campaign a few months into operation to help fund their barrel aged program.
It’s these tremendous barrel-aged sours that have already garnered the brewery tremendous buzz prior to ever actually serving a paying customer. As mentioned before, both of Joyce’s Avery Sour Ale Festival entries kicked within the first two hours of the festival, as did his entries at our co-sponsored, New Kids on the Block Festival earlier this March.
These days, stories of home brewers turned brewery founders are a dime a dozen, but for anyone who has been following Phil Joyce and now tasted this offering at a professional level, it’s easy to tell his story is the real deal. In a state that produces a multitude of talented breweries it can be even more challenging for a brewery to distinguish itself. However, a few years down the line, when Powder Keg will be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Perennial, Cigar City, Sante Adarius, and Prarie, just remember the day when we all discovered Lebron together.