Surprised? Probably not, though you should be. In a town with as progressive a reputation as Boulder has, you’d be forgiven for expecting to find a handful of all-organic breweries. After all, you can’t throw a hop cone without hitting an organic food store. Not so on the brewery front. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009, and still is today. And not only that: Chris Asher’s penchant for organic ingredients extends to a healthy respect for the environment as well. The brewery and tasting room are one-hundred percent wind-powered. And those chairs you’re sitting on and the table on which you just set your Green Bullet Organic IPA? Repurposed.
The sun is starting to set behind the angular Flatirons as I step into the by-now bustling taproom to meet with Asher, head brewer and co-owner of the eponymously-named brewery. Like many in Boulder, Asher is a transplant, having studied in the Northeast before heading west to hone his brewing skills with Golden City Brewing and the now-defunct Redfish in downtown Boulder. Asher is a soft-spoken and unassuming person, not the type to seek out the spotlight to promote his organic lineup of beers. But when the discussion turns to organic food, environmentally friendly brewing practices, and the organic beers he produces, Asher’s eyes light up. He argues that organic beer makes sense on three counts. First off, sustainable farming practices take less of a toll on the environment. Second, naturally occurring antioxidants that consume oxygen are inhibited by pesticides, Asher claims, and removing the pesticides means a longer shelf life for the beer. Finally and most importantly for Asher, drinkers of organic craft beer aren’t ingesting pesticides.
Even though Asher holds an M.B.A., organic beers are not just about market niches for him. Sure, Asher is more than content that some people make the journey to the taproom strictly because his beer is organic, and he’s rather bemused that some restaurants in town carry his beer for its organic cachet alone. But right from the top, it was not some bottom-line notion of cashing in on organic food and beverages that motivated Asher and his business partner, but rather principle. If anything, the decision to go all-organic engenders a series of challenges due to the relatively restricted availability of organic malts and hops. Unlike many other brewers who envision a final product and then go shopping for ingredients, Asher has to build his recipes around what kinds of organic malts and hops he can source. As Asher notes, many breweries express interest in using organic ingredients, but usually balk at the prospect upon learning of the difficulties involved in acquiring organic certification.
If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Asher’s brewery, Asher, like most any craft brewer, is just as concerned at the end of the day that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will will want to pull the pin on the weightier Greenade Double IPA and wait for the floral-citrus explosion. (Couldn’t resist that one … ). Asher sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. When I visited, he had an intriguing Brett- and lacto-spiked wheat beer aged over tart red cherries in red wine barrels. Despite this latter detail, the beer revealed an intriguing white wine character, pleasant acidity, and bright but subtle tart cherries. Right now the seasonal on tap is a ginger beer based on the Tree Hugger Amber, with a winter oatmeal stout planned for later in the year. Asher just brewed up a fresh-hopped pale ale with organic Cascade, Columbus, and Chinook hops from nearby Niwot Hops, so keep your eyes open for the tapping of those kegs in the very near future.
Asher Brewing Company is in the rather anodyne Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder, tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park. Prius driver or not, though, you won’t regret the drive (or bike-ride) out to Gunbarrel in search of something a little different.
*Hot off the press: Asher Brewing Company just started canning its Treehugger Amber. To celebrate, they are having a party this Saturday, October 11, starting at 2pm. Free food!
- Address: 4699 Nautilus Court (Suite 104), Boulder, CO 80301
- Taproom Hours: 2pm-12am, seven days a week
- Tours are free. Call (303) 530-1381 to schedule a tour.
Other Tempest Articles on Colorado Breweries:
All images courtesy of Asher Brewing Company and Organic Soul Imaging.
© 2014 Franz D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.