When it comes to running a brewery, there are certain beers you have to make to generate a profit, and then there are beers you make because you love the product. When those two things match up, it’s like the clouds parting and delicious rays of sunshine peaking through on a perfect day. But perfect days are rare.
So we asked 14 brewers, what’s your passion beer that you make for yourself, not because it sells well?
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“Doppelbock sells poorly, but is delicious and I can’t let it die.” — Don Oliver, head brewer at Dust Bowl Brewing.
“Buchenrauch, our rauchbier. Rauchbier is a smoked German Lager (typically a marzen similar to oktoberfest) in which the grain is smoked with beechwood. Ours has a balanced campfire smokiness with a malty backbone. It is a slower sell, but one of my favorite styles. And it pairs wonderfully with the food in our restaurant.”— Chris Davison, head brewer at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.
“Beers under 5 percent alcohol by volume. I like to drink beer in this realm and creating beers that are well flavored is a challenge. I find that these beers rarely sell well in our pub, yet I keep them available because I like them.”— Larry Chase, brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company.
“Our Balt Altbier is a beer that I love, and when people try it I think they love it, too, but people don’t know what an “alt” is and that turns them off from ordering it, but it really is a delightful beer: so full of flavor from both the malt and hops.”— Kevin Blodger, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Union Craft Brewing.
“For us that would be our Amber Altbier. It’s a traditional Dusseldorf-style German altbier. In a world of hoppy IPAs and adjunct beers, sometimes you just want a well-crafted beer that tastes like beer. Unfortunatly, altbier isn’t one of the more well-known styles in the U.S. and people have a hard time pronouncing it. But we keep making it because it continues to win professional beer competition medals (2015 Great American Beer Festival as one example) and because we love to drink it.”— Davin Helden, CEO of Liquid Mechanics.
“A Scotch ale that we call Royal Kilt Inspector. It started as a fall seasonal and we just kept it on because the whole staff here really loved it. Now it’s year-round and one of our most popular beers, so I guess that doesn’t really count. We have done a few different beers with grapes from our vineyard; it’s not our most popular style but it is so great when it’s nice outside and you can just sit on the back porch, knock a few back, and watch the sun go down over the lake and the vines.”— Jon Mansfield, brewery operations manager at Warhorse Brewing Company.
“Our Big Heed Scottish Ale is a beer I’ve been brewing for quite a few years. It’s a great style we got hooked on while living in the Portland area in the ’90s but has really dropped off the map commercially.”— Pete Anderson, co-owner of Pareidolia Brewing Company.
“We’ve made a black pale ale called On The Black — that has to be it. It might sound like an oxymoron, but part of the deal with that is that it’s an extremely hard beer to balance, and I think we found it.”— Damian Brown, brewmaster at Bronx Brewery.
“One of my all-time favorite beers we make at Throwback Brewery is our Campfire Smoked Robust Porter. This beer is a labor of love — we take a day to smoke local malt on applewood. But the result is so worth it. Layers of flavor — chocolate, roast, applewood smoke — transporting you to a campfire on a cool summer night with your closest friends and family. Smoked beers aren’t for everyone, so it is not our best seller. But those that like smoked beers love our Campfire, so we brew it for both us and them!”— Nicole Carrier, co-founder and president of Throwback Brewery.
“I love to make Demento, our session pale ale. We wanted to figure out a recipe to give the style a true personality and the Cascade and Centennial hops we use do the trick.”— Chris Riphenburg, co-owner and head brewer of Ale Asylum.
“I’ve been a big fan of Pikes Peak Brewing Company’s Gold Rush since before I ever started working here. It’s a big beer, 8.7 percent alcohol by volume, but it’s well-balanced between the spicy Belgian yeast character, the mild honey notes, and the delicate kettle hops. It’s a beast to make, with a massive malt bill and Belgian candi-sugar additions, but well worth the effort. It does happen to be one of our best sellers now, but I’d make it for myself regardless.”— Alan Windhausen, head brewer at Pikes Peak Brewing Company.