On a continent awash with American renditions of India Pale Ale, it’s a rare and pleasant surprise to come across a North American brewery that does not have an IPA of some sort on its menu. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, just a stone’s throw away from Fort Collins in Loveland, Colorado, continues this week’s Tempest in a Tankard German theme, venturing where few North American breweries have tread. With a bold all-Germanic line-up of beers that eschews the standard-issue IPAs, pale ales, and hopped-up ambers, even Grimms’ porter lays claim to German heritage.
The folks at Grimm Brothers not only brew up a wonderful array of medal-winning German standards such as their Fearless Youth Dunkel Lager, which brought home a bronze in the European-style Dunkel category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, and Little Red Cap Altbier, which took bronze in the German-style Altbier category at last year’s GABF. The brewery also has a penchant for resurrecting long-forgotten German beer styles, featuring an eastern German Kottbusser-style ale (Snowdrop, available year-round) and a seasonal Lichtenhainer-style ale (Gustavus, a kind of Berliner Rauchbier), along with its soon-to-be-released Broyhahn Bier called Pack of Scoundrels, a spicy stab at historical interpretation that traces its roots to Hannover. (If you’re in the Fort Collins area on November 16, you won’t want to miss this release.)
And though I can’t vouch for the authenticity of a brettanomyces-laced harvest bock – craft brewers in the U.S. have, after all, embraced the sour beer and wood-aged beer phenomenon with aplomb – Grimm also pours a seasonal Willow Wren Erntebier Brett Bock. Now drink three of those and say that four times.
When I visited co-owner and vice-president, Aaron Heaton, at the Grimm Brothers’ coolly minimalist tasting room back in October, one of my first questions concerned the connection with the Brothers Grimm.
As the story goes, Amelia Chapman, wife of Grimm Brothers co-owner, Don Chapman, is a teacher, and much enamoured of the Grimms’ fairy tales. Heaton and Chapman were initially skeptical of the Grimm idea, but with over two-hundred-and-fifty fairy tales to inspire their grain- and hop-inspired poetic fancy, they decided to run with the idea. With the help of graphic designer, Josh Emrich, the beers found their visual muse. (A standout among Emrich’s labels is his witty citation of Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, for the Master Thief German Porter. In the spirit of good fun, I’d be inclined, though, to challenge Emrich to produce a more historically accurate, albeit fictitious, painting entitled Disraeli Crossing the Channel.)
Little Red Cap references the Rotkäpchen fairy tale better known in English as “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Snow Drop draws on the Snow White tale. And Fearless Youth finds its inspiration in “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” – which, like all Grimm fairy tales, is a far from G-rated affair.
Heaton, an erstwhile accountant, and Chapman, an engineer in his former incarnation, were both one-time members of Fort Collins’ Liquid Poets homebrew club, a storied community of homebrewers that has spawned the likes of Funkwerks, Equinox, and Pateros Creek. Shortly after opening their doors in July 2010, the pair became three after joining forces with Russell Fruits, who handles sales and marketing. Though they still brew on the same ten-barrel system that got them off the ground, the trio has been so successful that they have increased their fermentation capacity, added 22-ounce bottlings, and expanded to a nearby unit to house their tasting room.
Alas, for the time being, Grimms’ excellent beers are available in Colorado only. Future plans include distribution to other states, but in the meantime, you’ll need to make sure friends traveling to Colorado bring you back a few treats. If on a winter’s night in Denver, you might also stop by Colorado Liquor Mart, which carries a selection of Grimm bottlings.
Last year marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Grimms’ fairy tale collection, Kinder- und Hausmärchen. You’ll find plenty of literature that will introduce you to the Grimm brothers and their cultural significance, including Maria Tatar’s bicentennial annotated edition of the Grimms’ tales. (For an interview with Tatar on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR radio show, “On Point,” click here.) Another German literature scholar, Jack Zipes, has published a number of works on German fairy tales and the Grimms, including The Brothers Grimm: From the Enchanted Forest to the Modern World (1988), and, more recently, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (2012).
© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.