In their new downtown Loveland space, co-founders Josh and Angie Grenz and co-owner Jason Bowser continue the brewery's legacy of creative and barrel-aged beers.
"I think once Josh caught the bug, he was just obsessed with craft beer," Angie says with a laugh when recounting the inspiration that drove the couple to leave their IT and publishing jobs and become brewers in northern Colorado. "I had always wanted to own my own business, so it just felt natural at the time to go ahead and start a craft brewery."
Three years later, Verboten Brewing, named after ingredients "forbidden" under the Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law for beer, is thriving. In addition to opening a beautiful new taproom and production space in downtown Loveland in March, they recently added "& Barrel Project" to their moniker to better express their brewing passion.
"We've created a reputation for barrel aged beers from the beginning," Angie explains. "Josh took home a World Beer Cup medal for Mountain Man [a strong ale aged in bourbon barrels] in 2014 and we had just been open a little over a year. So when we made the move and expanded our footprint, we really wanted to commit to that focus."
"We now have three times as many oak, bourbon, and wood barrels than we had before and we're still adding more," Josh says. "We're hoping to release a barrel-aged offering every month as well as have more bottles available year-round." The brewery released a popular late-summer seasonal, Laze About, a peach-habanero pale ale, in late August.
This year's iteration of Mountain Man is slated for late September. "We'll release it right before the Great American Beer Festival," Angie says. "Mountain Man is a beer that gets everybody to come out. It's highly sought after, so we do a limited release every year. That's fun for us."
Josh is also looking forward to his next imperial stout. "Sometimes I just want to make a beer because I want to drink it," he says. "I now have a big imperial stout aging in bourbon barrels. It's about six or seven months old. In the next couple of months, it should be in the ballpark of 11 percent ABV. I love that style and it should be out right in time for the fall season."
While Verboten produced a modest 225 barrels their first year in business, they nearly tripled that in 2015 -- despite shuttering their production facility and taproom for five months as they built out the downtown location. "Snowbank Brewing [in Fort Collins] helped us out by letting us set up there to brew," Angie explains. "We were able to keep our wholesale side going while we were shut down."
Though they now have 3,200 square feet for brewing (and a 1,250-square-foot taproom), they're still using their original three-barrel system. Until the brewery is able to purchase and install a larger brewhouse, they'll continue to contract brew some of their beers at Snowbank in order to keep up with increasing demand for their product.
"We brew five or more times a week at our brewery and several times a month at Snowbank," says Angie. "We can't keep up with the demand for Thinking of Something Orange [their best-selling orange blossom honey wheat] so we brew 30 barrels of that at Snowbank at least once a month. Then we do two or three other beers there each month as well." They expect to produce close to 1,200 barrels in 2016 and hope to have a 15-barrel system of their own online sometime in 2017.
Favorite beers: "As far as the beers we make, I love Silent Guardian and Mountain Man," says Josh. "Otherwise, I'm a big hophead and I really like all the great IPAs made in northern Colorado. I've been drinking a lot of Odell IPA, as it's one of my all-time favorites."
"All three Verboten owners love hoppy and barrel-aged beers," Angie adds. "Our Hop Crush has been really fun." A New England-style IPA, Hop Crush is full bodied, hazy and unfiltered with tropical rather than citrus hop notes. "It's refreshing and delicious. We've brewed it a couple times now and it's crazy good. I'll be sad when we stop it for the season."
Challenges: Even with the new space, production remains the team's biggest challenge. "I think we could easily be operating a 15-barrel system right now and still selling everything we make," Angie explains. "Getting the next expansion under our belt is going to be pretty important to us."
Opportunities: "We really want to set ourselves up as a destination brewery in downtown Loveland," Angie says. "As we continue to expand our reach, we want to draw in more of the people who come to northern Colorado to try out Odell and New Belgium. We want them to put Verboten on that list as well."
To that end, they put a greater focus on the taproom aspect of their new location. "Our initial space was more heavily focused on the production end," Angie explains. "Our new space is more comfortable and inviting. That's because we've realized the consumer really wants the taproom experience along with really good craft beer."
Needs: "We're looking at a small expansion to our taproom and increased space for our barrel project late next year or early in 2018," Angie says. "We have a space kind of earmarked to expand into in the future."