5 Questions With: Purpose Brewing & Cellars’ Peter Bouckaert
Brewing beer is hard. Starting a brewery is even harder. Along with making the beer that keeps the lights on, there’s logistics, staff, space and marketing workflows that need to be addressed and accounted for. It’s a big undertaking that takes a certain sense of passion and entrepreneurship; many brewers often say it’s a calling. This was the case for Peter Bouckaert when he decided to open up Purpose Brewing & Cellars last year.
After a storied tenure at New Belgium Brewing, Bouckaert decided to pave his own path, establishing Purpose Brewing & Cellars, a new brewing outpost based in Fort Collins, Colorado. The brewery is a sum of Bouckaert’s vast brewing experiences, both at New Belgium and previously at Belgium’s Brewery Rodenbach. Both stints included heavy utilization of oak foeders, which will be front and center for the beers produced at Purpose. Each beer created conveys a unique story via things like spice, oak, and hops.
We asked Peter five questions about his new business, his passion for oak trees, what surprised him about running a business, and more. Here’s what he said.
Starting any new business is hard, what inspired you to launch Purpose Brewing and Cellars?
The beauty of the people in craft beer as I rediscovered on my sabbatical in early 2016. I met so many owners and brewers while traveling on a road trip through the west and it was really inspiring to see their enthusiasm, local engagement, fun and difficulties they had. I realized that I rarely brewed anymore and had great people around me that had all the fun. I was stuck in too many and too long meetings. New Belgium Brewing had been a great run, with lots of learning opportunities, and we had achieved so much. But my rate of learning had slowed so I really needed a change again to speed it up.
So, after New Belgium, I needed something small again. Hands on, easy to oversee, not too much management and as little meetings as possible. I toyed around with different ideas, joining smaller local breweries, growing maybe a small brewery to something larger, but in the end going small was the most attractive. Very small. How can we get it smaller than that?
What has surprised you about running a new brewery? Any encounters you didn’t expect out of the gate?
Not really. Being around in the brewing industry for a while in Belgium and the US, you have a pretty good idea about different aspects of a business and brewing. It is really fun to be involved in so many aspects of the whole business again. Involved is maybe a funny word. Perhaps it’s more like do-it-yourself because who else would do it otherwise? It is also fun to bring in people around you with different ideas and skill sets and figure out and try together a way to do new things. You also get to rely on and engage in a whole town, or even wider than that, of people with different skill sets or knowledge that could be fun to bring in one or another way at Purpose Brewing & Cellars. It is fun to actually do things you were cursory involved in before. I had never created a website. I never had set up a template to keep the books. Who else will do it? Me or…?
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As dark as the night (nacht is Flemish for night), this beer went undercover with coffee from @beantrees_foco and Carob Sinica from LAB Brewery in Split, Croatia. This beer features grains of paradise, orange peel and vanilla beans and of course, carob. Carob looks like chocolate and even functions like chocolate but the taste is quite different which will make you want to yell, "Nacht it Off!" But no worries, we think even chocolate lovers will enjoy the slightly sweet and earthy qualities from the carob. Enjoy!
How has your passion for oak trees influenced your brewing process and taproom design?
Just like the Belgian beer glass culture, where every beer deserves the right glass so the beer can be it’s best self, trees and the perfect glass are just there in Belgium, you grow up with them and do not see them.
Pint glasses were a horrific discovery—thick glassware that are less than sexy with the mouth of the glass too wide to even be able to smell the beer… The perfect glass for a bartender. A nightmare for a customer. You could order the perfect beer and ruin your customers journey of tasting the beer by serving it in a pint glass! Who would ever dream about torturing both the customer and the beer with this contraption. This is not Busch Light anymore.
Where was I? Trees, oh yeah. Once living in Colorado, you miss beautiful trees. We wanted to bring both back in our taproom with wood from friends: oak barrels, beetle killed pines, old wood. And of course the right glass. Not sure if I answered the question, but you see there is some passion here.
Describe the role of spice in your beers: How can they elevate the beer drinking experience?
Spices, salt, wood, fruit, vegetables, meat, fungi, you name it, are just tools. We all know that the ingredients of beer are Knowledge, Experience and Creativity. Only those three. The Belgian Reinheitsgebot.
We will enhance the experience of the drinker with the right tools to make it exciting, delicious, maybe edgy, intriguing. We want the drinker to walk away with a great passionate experience that enhances their life. Passion can be love or hate, but hopefully it will lead to enhancing the experience of beer, and even beyond beer. Hopefully it will create inspiration for something new and different for that drinker.
We could choose to run after the next fad like Milkshake IPA, Brut and so on. Running after the next fad has been done before with the big brewers who ran after light, ice, low calorie, you name it. We are not in the business of the next fad. We are in the business of creating the next drinker experience which is new, every week. Touching dimensions in beer that will intrigue you further, like my idol Ferran Adria does. I finally got to meet Ferran twice last year. Can you imagine how I felt meeting my idol finally?!
What’s something new in the beer scene that you want to experiment with this year?
New to me is wherever you go, you seem to discover that craft beer is taking off. I got to go to Brazil, Croatia, Sweden, Russia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico, Kenia and Belgium of course. Everywhere you discover the same beauty in people who are enthusiastic, changing the perception of what beer can be. With the experimenting we have done as American brewers, we can be instrumental in helping other brewers out, but there is always new things to discover for us. Learning. Jabuticaba, Paduk, cooperage beyond oak, spelt, intricacies of distilling, you name it.
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I’m excited to see what Bouckaert and team does next to elevate the U.S. craft beer scene even further. Cheers!
Feature image courtesy of The Brewing Network