5 Questions with Tamir Danon of Novel Strand Brewing
In order to stand out as a new brewery in one of the country’s most densely populated beer cities, you need make incredible beer, you have to bring something different to the table, you must maintain discipline, and you have to have a strong business plan.
Over the past year, Novel Strand Brewing located in Denver’s Baker neighborhood has checked all of the boxes and has quietly become one of the best new breweries in the state. Founded by head brewer, Tamir Danon, along with his wife Chantel Columna, and college friend Ayana Coker, Novel Strand focuses predominantly on hoppy styles as well as sour and funky/wild beers. Home to Queen City Coffee shop by morning and transitioning to beer by the afternoon, Novel Strand, just this week extended operation hours to begin serving beer on Mondays as well, and is now primed for a big anniversary weekend of releases.
As we found out in our initial interview with Danon, he isn’t one to shy away from taking hardline stances, but for those willing to listen, they’re for thoughtful reasons. Now, as Novel Strand celebrates its one year anniversary, Danon has clearly gained perspective and in many ways matured as a business owner. We sat down with Tamir recently to hear about what he’s gleaned in the past year and hear a bit more about their go-big approach toward this weekend’s beer releases.
PorchDrinking: What has been the biggest learning lesson you’ve gained from your first year in operation?
Tamir Danon: A lot of little things. Patience, even though you may excited to share a beer with people. Our main principle is that time is very important. I had to reiterate that to myself throughout the year. There have been times when I’ve thought, man, I really want to tap this beer today, but it’ll be even better and more ready on Wednesday, so we’ll wait till then.
Patience in general is key… when you first open up a business you think it’s gonna be predictable by the first year, but it’s never like that. That’s brought maturity. I’ve learned to take a step back and not look day by day, but rather month by month. I’ve found that reality is different from your business plan or dream scenario.
Speaking of, has your business model or your views of the industry or changed in this first year?
Our business model hasn’t changed, we’ve stayed steady and true. We still don’t do flights. The three bars we wanted to work with, are the bars we’ve worked with. Also I think it was awesome that people are loving the (16oz) cans like we thought they would. You can take as many as you want, but you only have to drink one pint at a time. I’ve noticed other breweries doing that, so I guess a good idea spreads. 16 oz to-go just makes sense. We haven’t had to change the model at all and I’m very happy about that.
On the topic of the industry, I’ve always held the Denver beer scene to a very high regard. That’s why we came here, people here are educated, they know what they want. I think overall the industry is doing what I thought it would. People will keep trying crazy fun experimental stuff, some of it will last for a weekend, a month, for a year, a lot of it won’t, but it’s fun and that’s a hallmark of the Denver beer scene. We have so many breweries, and so many people do what they want and have fun with it, so we have a lot of unique things to taste.
I’m not a person who’s a purist or traditionalist, I’m more someone who leans toward the idea that beer should be beer, keep certain ingredients out of it. But the world would be boring if people didn’t have fun and play around with beer more.
We make the beer I want to drink and our job is to try as hard as we can to convince you that you want to drink that same beer.
What is something that you weren’t expecting to deal with coming into this first year of starting Novel Strand?
I think the unpredictability, I was hoping more like a pipe dream there would be more of a predictable trend that I could base my decision making on. It’s more about scheduling.
We didn’t expect rain or a bit of clouds to impact a Friday or Saturday in such a big way. But it all manages to fix itself.
What beer are you most proud of that you released this year and why?
Dancing with the Moon. For our other beers, I have full control on them from start to finish. I’m monitoring them all the time, day in and day out, I choose what hops to add and at what point to add them. Those are beers that are very human influenced. I’ve always felt that when I fill wood, it’s more rustic, it’s more free. What happens is what happens, and my job as a brewer is to blend or do what I have to do to make sure that what results is the best.
You try to mash really well and that the bacteria and yeast you use is healthy, that temperature doesn’t get too hot or too cold so that fermentation can proceed properly, but there’s only so much you can do.
To have what I got out of those barrels and the time period it came in, with the control we have, it’s unparalleled. It’s something that by itself and through its own work, became immaculate and I barely had to do anything except set things in place and cross my fingers.
It’s a beer that has a lot of depth and complexity. It’s very unique. It has a flavor profile I would not have expected. Altogether its my best work something I’m proud of. The beers that I control like Green Showers, that I’ve gotten down to a process… that’s my job. It’s my job to make sure those beers come out the same. But to have something where you’re wrangling nature and have it come out awesome is fun.
When we first met, you made a splash for some pretty hardline views on beer flights and tasters, beer Instagramming and more. Has any of that changed or been relaxed?
Not really, we feel the same that we felt. It is what it is. I still don’t think a flight is the correct way to sample a beer. I still think the beer will contrast. Especially now where we’re making even more different beers with Lagers and more, it’s not going to work, all those things are going to clash. We are still believers in… grab a splash if you must, but if not, go in on 10 ounces. It’s not like we’re cutting you off if you do it, but our hope and desire is that you take a step back and enjoy your tasters two at a time and get into it and 99% of people are cool with it, which is awesome.
Most people just want to taste the beer and I’m never going to hate on that. And when people take pictures here and tag us, we love it because it lets us know they are enjoying themselves and having fun. But it’s also like, just enjoy yourself and have fun. Just be with your friends and be with the beer and enjoy the day instead of worrying about all the other stuff. That for me is what beer should be… the facilitator of fun.
One Year Anniversary Celebration Releases
Novel Strand is commemorating their first year around the sun with five days of special tappings, and cans/bottle releases.
The festivities kicked off yesterday with the release of Popular Demand, a German Kellerpils inspired lager brewed and lightly dry hopped with Kohatu, Motueka, Taiheke, and Waimea hops, all from New Zealand. Danon credits Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ Ashleigh Carter for guidance in brewing this light pillow-y Pilsner with notes of melon from the Southern Hemisphere hops.
Yesterdays release also included Muscles from Brussels, a small Saison inspired beer fermented by a blend of 3 Brettanomyces strains, lightly dry hopped with African Queen and Rakau hops.
Today, Novel Strand will release Supreme Supreme, a strong hoppy ale featuring two of Danon’s favorite hops Mosaic & Nelson Sauvin.
On Friday, the official one year anniversary date, Novel Strand will hold a triple can release of Green Showers, their signature nuanced hoppy beer, which last December we named one of the best new beers in the city. As well as Baby Showers, a lower ABV, more sessionable version of Green Showers with Amarillo, Huell Melon, and Mosaic hops. And finally It’d Be a Lot Cooler If It was Green, a strong hoppy ale with Idaho #7, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin.
On Saturday, the brewery will debut the aforementioned Dancing with the Moon, an ale brewed with local malted barley, wheat and oats from Troubadour Malting, and aged hops. Imparting a prominent initial pucker but finishing with balance, Dancing with the Moon is fermented and conditioned in freshly emptied Cabernet Sauvignon barrels by a mixed culture composed of various strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Saccharomyces (among others) before being naturally refermented and conditioned in the bottle by residual microflora.
This bottle release will be available in 500 mL and 750 mL corked and caged bottles only. This incredible entry from Dannon showcases the flavor profile of a funky mature Gueuze, despite not being a Method Traditionelle style beer and only spending six months in the barrel.
Finally, on Sunday Novel Strand debuts Shot on Location Vol. 1, a new coffee collaboration series with Queen City Collective Coffee. In this series, Novel Stand will be partnering with various coffee growing countries to ferment various coffee berries to be infused in n ale fermented by a blend of 3 different Kveik strains of yeast from Scandinavia. This inaugural edition is cold infused with coffee seeds from Coffee arabica berries fermented in Colombia by a culture of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus.