By Gregory Daurer | Apr 01, 2018
Skeels says that "baere" is an Old English term for "barley" -- and it might be the origin behind the word "beer."
"We like the idea of old, traditional stuff," says Skeels.
And that was the idea behind their neighborhood brewpub with its rough-hewn wood accents, located in a strip mall on Broadway in Denver's Baker neighborhood. It's a comfortable, relaxed spot, with friendly help and without TVs, where patrons come to drink and converse -- and come to trust the two collaborators making the beer to provide them with unique flavors.
"No matter who walks in, we can find, at least one beer that they'll enjoy," says Skeels. Furthermore, repeat customers are willing to try beers outside their comfort zones, because of the camaraderie they've developed with the ale craftsmen. "They might expand their palate because of it," says Skeels. "I think there is a trusting relationship there."
IPAs are the top sellers. But Greer says when new customers come in and ask for an IPA, they're often gently quizzed, "What do you want out of your IPA?"
Based upon that info, perhaps a new customer will be offered a "New England-inspired" IPA, as Greer calls Baere's slightly-dry, hazy version with "a lot of citrus, a little bit of grapefruit" notes, made with a London Ale yeast strain, as well as a Saccharomyces yeast cultivated from a Belgian gueuze beer. "People have very different ideas of what [a New England IPA] should be," says Greer. "[Ours isn't] clear, but it doesn't look like juice."
Or Greer might steer them towards the Big Hoppy Brown, instead.
But if they're looking for something flavorful and familiar to the majority of hopheads, chances are Greer or Skeels will serve them a C3(i)PA. "It's maybe a little maltier than the modern West Coast-style, but not super malty," says Greer. "I think people just gravitate towards that balance and drinkabilty."
For their 500th batch of beer, they took the fixings for C3(i)PA (made with Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial hops) and fermented it, instead, with a saison yeast and Brett. Greer calls it "a combination of two of our standard beers."
Their other "standard beer" is their saison. For a special version of that already-tasty beer brewed with a French saison yeast, they bottle-condition it with Brett -- a brew which earned them a bronze medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival in the "Classic Saison" category. Greer says, "I think [bottle-conditioning] enhances the spicy character of the yeast." Adds Skeels: "It tastes a little candied to me."
Baere has also won a GABF bronze in 2017 for its Blackberry Table Sour, which is a version of its tart Baere-Liner Weisse that's been refermented upon fruit. (They sometimes use other fruits, as well, such as strawberries or boysenberries.) The brewery also offer syrups to add to the Baer-Liner (which falls within the Berliner Weisse style), with the green-hued woodruff being a popular choice.
The brewery has lost seating due to its expanding, sour beer, barrel-aging program. Some 40 barrels sit on racks, where tables used to be. Luckily for them, Baere has been able to add an outdoor patio for patrons.
"We use American oak a lot more than, I think, other sour breweries tend to, because of our relationship with Laws [Whiskey House]," says Greer. "We've been getting their barrels, basically, since Batch One of their whiskey." There have been times when it seemed like the whole distillery has been at Baere drinking beer.
In addition to collaborating with Laws, they've teamed up with Mockery Brewing for their fourth time at Collaboration Fest, serving a pastry stout this year. Every solstice, Baere brews a beer with Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company. They've also brewed with Cerebral Brewing and Mother Road Brewing Company out of Flagstaff, Arizona. The day CompanyWeek visited, Greer and Skeels were at Blue Moon Brewing Company, where a brewer friend of theirs asked them to add their mixed yeast culture to a foeder.
They've developed big fans among other brewers -- although Baere isn't a very large brewery. Greer and Skeels make-do with a 2.5-barrel brewhouse. After opening July 5, 2014, they brewed 60 barrels that year. They're now brewing around 400 annually. Their hand-filled, 375- and 750-ml bottles are carried in a handful of shops mostly in the Denver area. And they have a tap account at a restaurant, 12 @ Madison. "We're still so small it's kind of hard to let a keg go," Skeels admits.
As homebrewers, Kevin and Ryan met through a high school acquaintance of Greer's: Skeels' now-wife, also named Ryan, who's assisted over the years along with Kevin's wife, Cheyenne, behind the bar. Greer, 36, had previously worked as a water and wastewater engineer. Skeels, 35, was a forester-turned-restaurant inspector. "I think we're both decent problem solvers," says Skeels, "which is not that important on most days, but when it it is important, it's really important to be able to kind of MacGyver your way through stuff."
What's next for the resourceful and respected duo? Hard to say, given how expensive Denver is getting. They have to decide if a bigger space is warranted. Or maybe just brewing more often, filling more bottles, and eventually hiring a salesperson to move their products across the state.
For now, the goal is "to keep doing what we're doing -- and hopefully do more of it," says Greer. "We think it's worked: People like what we do, we like what we do."
Favorite beers: Skeels give a shout out to two farmhouse styles that influenced them early on -- one from Tourpes, Belgium and one from Kansas City, Missouri: "Saison Dupont for the saison, and [Boulevard Brewing Co.'s] Tank 7. A the time, we were in love with those two beers." Skeels also picks a local favorite in a different style of beer: "Odell IPA in the hoppy category."
Challenges: Skeels says, "Figuring out how to expand without having more space right here."
Greer adds, "We're trying to maximize everything we can do, right now."
Opportunities: Greer says, "Packaged beer sales. Getting that out a little more out there. Getting better known."
Needs: "Space and money," says Greer.