By Gregory Daurer | Mar 04, 2018
"I like to say we're kind of exploring our family heritage [via beer styles]," says Diebolt (whose surname is pronounced DEE-bolt).
It follows that he and his business partner and father, Dan, focus largely on styles favored by their French forebears. "At one point a couple of weeks ago, we had six Biere de Gardes on, which I think is more than the entire state has Biere de Gardes on right now." The brewery also usually offers four saisons and an occasional Biere de Mars.
One of Diebolt's beers is named after Anton and Francois Diebolt, who immigrated to the United States via New Orleans in the 1850s before making their way up to Kansas. Anton Francois French Ale is an amber, which Diebolt says straddles the line between a Biere de Garde and a Biere de Mars. Crisp with a dry finish, it's made with French Strisselspalt hops and a French yeast. "I get a lot of earthy notes," says Diebolt. "I get some pepper and some herbal notes. I also get some kind of berry notes to it that are very subtle -- that's definitely yeast-derived."
Provocateur is a higher-alcohol Biere de Garde, at 8.5 percent ABV, which undergoes a 7.5-hour boil. Notes of candy-orange swirl in the mix. "It's a pretty complex beer for only having base malt in it and fairly lightly hopped," says Diebolt.
Radiola is a barrel-aged saison brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, deceptively strong at 9 percent ABV, yet still somehow thirst-quenching. Diebolt says, "It's smooth and a little bit bready. I also get into some hay, quite a bit of farmhouse notes on it. Fruit on the nose: pear, white peach notes, and some apple."
Take the base for the previously mentioned Anton Francois, ferment it a little warmer, add palm sugar during the boil, steep it with a fig concentrate, and spice it what Diebolt describes as a "sweet Algerian curry," and you've got Figgy Noir, the brewery's "Algerian Biere de Garde."
It's part of an in-brewery release called the Expat Series. While acknowledging the detrimental side of France's colonial heritage, Diebolt likes to explore how other cultures have left their mark on France in terms of culinary heritage. A previous beer in that series examined at Tap Room Manager Sopheak Sao's Cambodian heritage: a saison made with galangal root, lime leaves, and jackfruit.
Diebolt is sensitive about his brewery fitting into its surroundings -- and not being perceived as being disrespectful colonizers or gentrifiers. His 15-barrel brewery is located in a spacious former warehouse building (which played home, at different times, to a meatpacking plant and a sign manufacturing company) in Denver's largely Latino Sunnyside neighborhood. Diebolt says he's heartened by how many people express to him, "This is our neighborhood brewery."
A range of six-packs, 375-milliliter bottles of the Bottled Lightning series, and 22-ounce bombers are for sale at the brewery. Diebolt's beers are also available at 80 liquor stores and 45 tap accounts, mostly in the Denver metro area.
In 2017, Diebolt brewed around 1,100 barrels; Diebolt expects to do about 1,300, this year. That includes numerous barrel-aged offerings (the brewery has about 35 first- and second-use barrels on hand), as well as cans of Colorado Greenback IPA. Regarding the latter beer, Diebolt says, "I didn't want to reinvent the IPA." He likes drinking IPAs more than making them, he admits. Still, the result is a tasty offering: fruity, citrusy, piney, created with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade hops.
It's a long way from his father's earliest brews. While working in sales and marketing for the oil and gas industry, Dan spent some spare hours homebrewing IPAs, pale ales, porters, and other beers he enjoyed sharing with his friends. Jack is the gallophile of the pair. "I ended up going after more of the French styles, saisons, wits," he says.
Diebolt became a professional brewer after making maps and working on oil rigs. Father and son became business partners after his parents relocated to Colorado six years ago, with the father now handling sales and the son brewing and managing production.
And what is it about running a brewery that gives Jack his joie de vivre? Answers Diebolt: "I think coming up with an idea and seeing it through, executing on it -- and executing well. So whether that's an event that goes off amazing, and you just see the smiles on people's faces, when you know that you hit a home run with that one and people are having a great time and they're going to remember that for a while. Or conceptualizing a recipe, writing it, brewing it, tasting it and tasting exactly what you imagined in your head when you were writing that recipe."
Does he think his distant, 19th-century relatives, Anton and Francois, would have enjoyed hanging out at the brewery during its then-upcoming Mardi Gras party, complete with a jazz band, crawfish boil, and tappings of C'es la Saison? "I imagine that they probably would," he says with a smile.
Favorite beers: Diebolt says he was smitten by saisons after trying his first one at Funkwerks in Fort Collins. "That sent me on a trajectory where I'm always exploring that style," he notes. "I like Funkwerks a lot. I like how they've wholeheartedly devoted themselves to those beer styles."
And there are other local faves in Denver: "Our Mutual Friend is a standout for me. I absolutely love those guys, I love the people over there, I love the beers that they're making. Little Machine is another one close by. Whatever beer they decide to brew, I think it turns out really well. And, again, it's the people, for me: The beer has to be there, but I think it's the people, how you interact with them."
And from overseas: "There are so many good French beers, that's a hard thing. Fantôme [Saison] is one that I really love. That's kind of Belgian, but you're splitting hair with that, honestly."
Challenges: "Everything about this business is a challenge -- and I think that's what makes it rewarding," says Diebolt. "It's not easy. None of it is. You know, you homebrew and you brew good batches of beer and you're like 'I'm going to start a brewery up.' You quickly realize that it has a lot less to do with the beer than you think, which I think is unfortunate. It's who plays a better marketing game, who describes their beer better."
Opportunities: More events, says Diebolt. "We're pushing on the tasting room a little harder this year. We're looking to put on bigger parties and more in-depth events. This year, I want to push our French branding a little harder. . . . We'll be showing the Tour de France and probably throwing parties in relation to that. We'll show the Cannes Film Festival and do a mini film festival here for that. Solstice Parties."
Needs: Expanding into the great outdoors is Diebolt's biggest need. "A patio," he says.
Beyond that, it's all about energy and execution. "We don't need things as much as we need to execute on ideas," says Diebolt. "I think we have it within ourselves to be whatever we want to be. It's really just figuring it out and pushing in that direction."