Founder Nick Nunns serves as a gatekeeper between the occult realms of craft brewing and heavy metal music.
TRVE Brewing serves up quaffable takes on session beers, in addition to showcasing blended-beer artisanship. It's serious ale from a brand incorporating deadpan humor. Pay heed, visitor, for above a pentagram-inspired design on the brewery's front door is the following warning: "Solicitors, pets, and untethered children will be used as sacrificial offerings." Zounds! The tap handles are, indeed, situated in a space that resembles an altar.
Nunns, 32, says of the brewery's name TRVE (pronounced "true”) "is kind of an inside gag in the metal community that is kind of poking fun at some metalheads who might take it just a little too seriously. And I felt that was something you see in craft beer, as well, where people get a little too hoity-toity."
If there were brewing industry action figures, Nunns would make an ideal model. Dressed all in black clothing, with gray cycling cap over cropped hair, he wields laser-like attention, magnetic confidence, a cutting laugh. An electrical engineering job brought Nunns to Denver from his native Massachusetts 10 years ago. He was smitten with the city, but not his work.
Nunns began homebrewing about four years before self-funding the opening of TRVE on the Summer Solstice of 2012. Beer production has cast its spell over him: "It's art and it's science at the same time."
TRVE's taproom and brewery on Broadway resides in a former art gallery: a slender space that's home to a 30-plus-foot long communal table, giving the brewery what Nunns calls a "mead hall" vibe. Large black-and-white images of dilapidated, spectral houses in Colorado and Kansas hang on gray walls. Stark, abrasive music plays at conversational levels. The brewery welcomes all -- whether metalhead, beer geek, or neophyte listener or drinker. Nunns says, "Some people come in here and they'll be a little off-put by the [ambiance], but then you actually meet our bar staff, and they're some of the friendliest people you can find in Denver."
A few of the brewery's offerings sit on a table near Nunns.
There's the gose-style beer Prehistoric Dog, named for a Red Fang song. Nunns describes it as a "tart, sessionable beer with a decent amount of wheat content to give it some body. And that acidity and salt gives you that 'moreish' quality that makes you want to keep on pounding at it, basically."
And there's Dunwich (the name, a nod to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft), which Nunns calls "a robust porter," adding, "The British ale yeast esters come through, where you get that fruitiness. I think it's balanced nicely with that deeper resonant chocolate-cocoa note."
"We don't have a lot of capacity here," says Nunns of the brewery's original 3.5-barrel brewhouse, housed within 2,000 square feet. So in early 2015, TRVE opened a larger space, called the Acid Temple, with expanded capacity for its sour beer program.
The 5,000-square-foot Acid Temple on West 2nd Avenue contains the following features: eight 500-liter wooden puncheons; more than 60 oak barrels, formerly containing wine, whiskey and tequila; a couple of stainless steel tanks; and two 1,300-gallon oak foeders, used for brewing batches of base beer for blending purposes. Like a musician working on his or her guitar shredding, Nunns says the brewery is practicing its "blending chops" by mixing together various brews "to see what we can come up with after the fact."
Last year, the combined production of the two facilities was about 400 barrels. For 2016, Nunns anticipates cranking up the volume to 1,000 barrels.
Nunns cracks open a 375-millileter bottle of Cursed (its homage to an album by the band, Rotten Sound) that was liquidly forged at the Acid Temple, where the brewery uses a house yeast strain (TRVE's website calls it "a blend of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and wild yeasts"). Nunns describes Cursed as a "patio-pounder sour" with "light acidity, nice level of carbonation." The beer is glowingly blonde. It brims with floral and citrus notes, an elegant lemon character. And the beer label illustration depicts an HM2 -- the "iconic [guitar] pedal that was used in Sweden back in the day for some of these, like, seminal death metal albums," says Nunns.
Fittingly, as guitar feedback rings in the background, Nunns says of TRVE's beer lineup, "We get a lot of positive feedback from people who are in the industry. And that's what's most important to us: the respect and admiration of our peers."
Favorite beers: Nunns says he considers Troy Casey of Casey Brewing and Blending in Glenwood Springs a "friend and resource" in the world of sour beer production. "He's making some phenomenal, wonderful, mixed-culture beer up there."
TRVE also counts allies across the Mile High City: "On the cleaner side of beer, we're fond of Ratio Beerworks here in town," Nunns says. "They're kind of like the punk version of us."
Challenges: Holding true to TRVE's current production schedule -- not further expansion: "Not necessarily growing quite as much, but just maintaining what we have."
Opportunities: Finally being able to distribute those new beers that have taken so long to concoct: "The past year has [involved spending a lot of money] on the buildout of the Acid Temple, and on brewing beer over there that you don't see returns on for quite some time, because it's all sour beer. So it takes at least six months for some of that stuff to ferment out. We've spent a lot of money getting ourselves set up to be extremely successful this year, so we've been very, very cash-strapped the past year. And now we're finally rounding the corner where we're sitting on huge amounts of beer that is ready to be sold."
Helping in that regard, the brewery has employed a full-time sales rep since the beginning of the year. Like the hammer of a Norse god, Nunns says that she's "absolutely crushing it." The brewery markets 375-milliliter bottles at local beer and liquor stores, as well as filling select draft accounts across the Denver metro area.
Needs: "Every brewery always needs money," says Nunns. "Always, always, always."
Like a necromancer peering into the immediate future, he adds, "I don't think that we need much. We have what we need at this point: We have expertise, we have a reputation, we have the equipment and the space."