Employees: 4 (brewery); 25 (tap house); 30 (Tivoli Distribution Company); 7 (parent company, i lov iT)
Founder and CEO Corey Marshall resurrects beer's past, helps grow newer Colorado brands, and assists in the training of future brewers.
Long before Corey Marshall re-established Tivoli Brewing Company, his family had a connection to the brand and to the brewery. His beloved "Grandpa Joe" drank Tivoli beer exclusively until the day he died. His relatives even attended theater and athletic events at the Tivoli Brewery, which served as an ethnic community center, as well.
"Tivoli was really part of the heart and the soul of our family, back then," says Marshall, 50. "Tivoli was a major beer, a part of the German culture, a part of the German community, which our family was part of."
In 1969, the new owners of the brewery ceased production, due to financial strains. Tivoli had existed since 1900 -- a direct result of acquisitions, mergers, and name changes involving Colorado's earliest breweries: Rocky Mountain Brewery, Zang's Brewery, and Sigi's Brewery.
But now, Tivoli Helles is being brewed in the same building on the Auraria Campus once again, using a recipe matching the original. Tivoli brewer Dieter Foerstner -- who studied brewing at UC Davis, worked for Gordon Biersch in his native Arizona, and who's steeped in his own German heritage -- describes the lager as "just like what you'd expect to find in Munich: light and crisp, nice bread-like characteristics to it, very little hop characteristic. . . . You get the malt flavor, a little bit of the yeast flavor, and that's it. Clean, crisp. It hits your palate and then it just fades away. It leaves you refreshed and ready for another pull."
The Tivoli Helles lager isn't the only legacy brand being revived by Marshall and Foerstner. There's also Sigi's Wild Horse Buck Beer. Foerstner, 37, describes it as a "buck style beer" -- an ale fermented at cooler temperatures giving it "lager-like properties." Some smoked malt is incorporated into the recipe, in order simulate the fire-kilned malt being used over a hundred years ago. There's a sweet caramel flavor intermingling with a slight roastiness. Even at 6.7 percent alcohol, it's a "moreish" beer.
"This was the bestselling beer in Denver and Colorado between the years 1864 and 1874," says Marshall. "So when you see pictures of guys leaning against the bar, big handlebar moustaches, cowboy hats tipped back, the beer probably tasted like this."
This week, six-packs of Tivoli Sigi's Wild Horse Buck Beer join bottled Tivoli Helles in the catalog of Marshall's very own Tivoli Distribution Company, for which Marshall also serves as CEO. In addition to the Tivoli brand, the company distributes beer for around 20 other Colorado breweries, including Windsor's High Hops Brewery, Loveland's Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Aspen Brewing Company, Frisco's Backcountry Brewery, and Steamboat Springs' Butcherknife Brewing Company.
Marshall says, "Where Colorado is going, it really needs a distribution company that focuses on brand building, that can really get in there and take small brands and really help them expand and grow." He adds, "We need the same services, as well." He started the company to provide just those types of services, he says.
Marshall acquired extensive, beer-industry knowledge while working for Molson Coors for seven years. He was involved with capital planning, production, sales, marketing, new product development, strategic planning, distribution, pricing, and logistics. "I've seen [the business] from every side," says Marshall.
While doing research related to the mergers and acquisitions part of his job, Marshall began investigating Tivoli. He was so excited at the prospect of bringing the brand back to life that he purchased the rights to it himself, he says. Then he went to senior management and told them, "I think this is a great brand to revive. I've actually acquired the rights to it. Let's do it." When Marshall realized that Tivoli wasn't going to fly under Molson Coors, he started it up on his own. "I took a leap and decided to put everything I knew on the line," says Marshall.
The move into the historic Tivoli building, presently the Tivoli Student Union, was facilitated by Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver). It came about after a series of negotiations between the university and the brewery led to a public-private partnership. MSU Denver had decided to start its own Brewery Industry Operations program, and Tivoli assists with that enterprise, gaining student interns in the process.
Marshall says, "While there's other brewing programs out there where they teach people how to brew, we do more than that: We teach [students] how to run a business."
MSU Denver Vice President for Administration Steve Kreidler adds, "We built an entire program around what the beer industry told us they needed. The Tivoli, as a partner, provides us with a working station."
Eventually, Marshall hopes the university's brewing lab will be able to cultivate yeast from an original, unopened bottle of Tivoli beer, which will allow the brewery to start using the authentic ingredient once again.
And in the future, Kreidler expects to see MSU Denver interns and the university's "brewfessors" assisting at Tivoli's joint brewery/restaurant venture at DIA (expected to open in 2017), providing beer education to travelers as part of the curriculum. While the airport deal has caused some controversy over the decision to select the Tivoli-affiliated group, Kreidler says the decision is positive for MSU Denver: "One of the reasons they won that bid was that they [plan] to include the student experience as part of the deal."
While that venture hasn't taken flight just yet, additional historic brands are being readied to be launched in bottles: Jet Imperial Malt Liquor (with the present-day addition of New Zealand hops lending "juicy tropical notes," says Foerstner) and Bohemian Girl Pilsner (with Saaz hops and a small percentage of rye malt, a creamy flavor). Tivoli produced 1,800 barrels of beer in 2015, and Marshall projects 4,000 barrels in 2016.
Clearly, Marshall is finding joy in his decision to strike out on his own, and to revive a brand inextricably tied to his family memories. There are at least five hearty "ha!s" in each one of his laughs, and Marshall laughs often. Like when it's explained to a visitor that the Marshalls have a miniature Australian shepherd and a horse both named "Tivoli," and then Corey's wife and Tivoli co-founder Debbie Marshall chimes in by saying, "Luckily, we named our children before we started all this!"
"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" booms Corey Marshall.
Favorite beers: The flavor -- and the ritual involved in the serving -- of Kölsch beer has stayed with brewer Dieter Foerstner since studying abroad in Germany as a college undergraduate: "I just absolutely fell in love with the style. I eventually was living in Bonn, which is just south of Cologne -- where Kölsch is from and where it's brewed. . . . [The beer's] clean, it's crisp, it's really refreshing. . . . But also, the way they serve it over in Germany: It comes in 0.2-liter glasses, which is right around six,seven ounces. And they walk around with these Kölsch trays . . . and, basically, you order one. And [then as] the server walks around the bar, he notices as your beer gets near the end, he'll drop off another one, and drop off another one -- keep you refilled and refreshed until you're finally done and you put your coaster on top of your beer, and that's it. And they just bring you your check -- so you don't have to get the bartender's attention, you don't have to get your servers attention. The beer keeps replenishing itself and allows you to keep your conversation going and your focus on the people you're with, which I found to be really quite awesome."
Challenges: Corey Marshall says, "Number one -- and I would say this is probably true with every brewery in the world -- is cash flow. A brewery requires a lot of money to run, to maintain, to invest in packaging materials, before the product is even in the field, before the distributor has to pay you for the product, before the retailer has to pay. I mean, it's 60 days before money ever comes in the door that actually goes to anybody, after you put the product out there."
Opportunities: Says Marshall: "You look at what's going on in the beer industry: It's a revolution. . . . [Craft beer is] currently, maybe, 10 percent of the industry. We've got 90 percent to go. There's a huge opportunity for all of us."
Brewer Dieter Foerstner says lagers represent a big opportunity. "A trend that I've seen with the big micros is that you're starting to see them do pilsners and helleses. While I don't think it's a complete abandonment from big and boozy beers, I think, in order for craft beer to take over and gain more market share, you are going to have to do more sessionable beers. . . . From a business standpoint, consumers will drink more sitting in the 4.5 to 6 percent range."
Needs: Marshall says good people are always in demand. "We have a great team. And our team gets better and better, but finding people that have that talent? It doesn't mean you have to be the most educated person in the world: It's that passion."
Foerstner concurs: "It's attitude. You can train anything else, you can teach anything else. I can't train anybody, or teach anybody, to have the right attitude. They just have to have it."