By Gregory Daurer | Apr 27, 2017
Capps, 25, first learned about craft beer when he worked in his late teens an engineering intern at Anheuser-Busch, while also completing his electrical engineering degree at Georgia Tech. That's when he first began homebrewing, as well as pressing his father to secure whatever different beers were distributed in Georgia's limited market.
Because he wasn't exposed to a wide variety of craft styles, Capps says New Image's portfolio doesn't reflect "a lot of pigeonholing from drinking other people's beers."
Hence, a flagship beer for New Image is its hazy Vermont-style Double IPA. It novelly brews a sour beer made with kombucha as an ingredient. It also cans a "German Landbier" (called Olde Town Regular, an homage to its Arvada location): "Brewed like a helles, fermented like a kolsch, and designed by an American."
"I'm going to do what I want to do," says Capps.
The public is responding to his individualism. "It's really taken off right now," says Capps, calling his current production "completely maxed out." Capps brewed 400 barrels last year and expects to produce 2,000 this year, reflecting the brewery's "big, fast growth."
In terms of his own development, no midlife crisis led him to brewing, he says -- apparent given his age. Capps made brewing his career from the start. However, there were mental struggles that he went through as he was growing up: depression in high school, followed by an eating disorder while in college. Capps cites one of his brewery's primary missions as funding mental health outreach services. He calls it a way to use the "social leverage" that owning a brewery affords, a way to further his cause by making mental health a "conversation starter": "We think it's cool to actually deal with your problems and not just quietly push them under the rug."
Capps has learned to make changes, in order to preserve his equilibrium. He helped establish a successful brewpub near Pittsburgh, but there were conflicts with a partner. Capps says he grew disenchanted with the "frat party atmosphere."
So, in 2015, he uprooted himself and moved to Colorado."I need a new, fresh start and I need a new image," he recalls telling himself -- which led to the name of his brewpub-restaurant venture in Arvada's Olde Town. "I want to wear my heart on my sleeve and deal with problems when they occur and be honest with people around me and have genuine relationships."
Capps also has a genuine interest in brewing outside the box. His exposure to IPAs from New England has led him to an appreciation for Vermont's offerings. New Image's East Coast Transplant resulted from "emulating some of the more famous Double IPAs of Vermont" like Heady Topper and Sip of Sunshine, the brewing techniques of Hill Farmstead Brewery, and the "flavor and body" of Zero Gravity Craft Brewery. East Coast Transplant is described on its can as "hazy as hell and incredibly smooth to drink. Complex and pungent notes of peach dominate the nose." Capps further describes the flavor as hinting at "stone fruits, papaya, pineapple."
Capps stays up to date on the Green Mountain State's beers thanks to his girlfriend's parents in Vermont: "They send me beer on a monthly basis."
On the other hand, there aren't many other kombucha beers on the market. (Capps cites one found in Europe, plus there's another brand made in Michigan.) New Image's Dyad beer is made from kombucha sourced from Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha in Boulder. Capps blends the kombucha into his beer base, post-fermentation, in a 20 percent ratio, which keeps the active cultures alive. A farmhouse-style ale, Dyad has flavors of lemon and pineapple. It's tart and quenching. Capps also ages some of his beer, resulting in what he calls a "complex, fruit character." In the barrel, it takes on a decidedly lambic-like character.
"I love the results!" says Jamba Dunn of Rowdy Mermaid of Dyad. Capps has also assisted Dunn in formulating a kombucha beer to be released by Rowdy Mermaid. Dunn says of Capps, "That guy is a genius. I am so in awe of his mind and all the different angles that are being thought about by him. He's not only revolutionizing brewing, he's revolutionizing breweries."
Utilizing his engineering knowledge, Capps is designing prefabricated products, still in the developmental stages, that will assist small breweries with cooling and carbonation. He calls them "cost-effective solutions for smaller companies."
As much as Capps enjoys the recognition and positive press that New Image's beers have been receiving, he says building the company involves a broader skill set -- and a solid team. "I'm very passionate about growing a business and creating something that's bigger than an individual," he says.
Favorite beers: Capps points to a Denver favorite: "Bierstadt Helles. I just like the whole concept of what they're doing. Everybody loves their Slow Pour Pils; I hate pilsners personally, but I love that helles. And no one ever does a helles -- and no one does a good helles. . . . That's a beer that I really respect and a brewery I really respect."
Challenges: "Capital, says Capps. "Having enough money to do what you need to do. Advertising, getting your name out there, getting people to recognize a new business. Beyond that, we sell more beer out the back door than we do through the front. You know, it's hard when your beer's available other places to drive people to the [home] location sometimes."
Another: "Managing people. It's not something I'm averse to. A lot of people, especially my age, hate managing other people. I like it personally. It sucks when you have bad people; it's great when you have good people."
Opportunities: Capps says he wants to widen both his distribution and available products in Colorado: "We only have three [styles] in cans right now. We're going to be pushing that up to eight or 10 this summer. So, we have a lot more volume we can do just from that -- and more exposure."
He also plans on expanding into some other states in 2018, and exporting overseas in by 2020: "I think exports to developing countries is going to be the next big market for craft beer for brewers who really want to grow."
Needs: Capps wants a new image for Arvada -- and he encourages a trend some may despair: "Gentrification. Olde Town just has this reputation: It's up and coming. But it's not there, yet. This is speaking more to the need of the restaurant facility: There's a good amount of people out and about here on a reasonably regular basis, but there's still pretty much a suburban mindset, for the most part -- not nearly as much of the support local as people like to pretend, around here. They say, 'Support local,' but then most of them support chains."