Monday, December 17, 2012

Brewday at Brasserie a Vapeur

After a whirlwind GABF week and the following two weeks trying to catch up, my wife Carolee and I could finally start thinking about our vacation in Belgium.  We landed in Brussels, jumped in our GPS-equipped Peugeot, and headed straight to the southwest edge of Belgium and the town of Pipaix. Our destination was Brasserie a Vapeur where, on the last Saturday of every month, they hold a public brew day.

Originally known as Brasserie Cuvelier, the brewery has been producing its flagship Saison Pipaix on the same site since 1785 and is the last steam powered brewery in the world.  In 1984 when it looked like the brewery would close for good, a schoolteacher by the name of Jean-Louis Dits stepped in to save it.

The brewday started at 9am as crushed malt fell from the hundred year old Meura mill on the second floor and was hydrated before it hit the iron mash tun. The crowd watched as the steam engine chugged along, driving an axle via pulleys that in turn drove the mash paddles to mix the mash. The mash was very thick at the initial rest of 113⁰F and additions of hot liquor raised the mash temperature through various steps before finally reaching 165⁰F.

When the mash reached its final temperature rest and was readied for vorlauf, the crowd was ushered across the street to dine on homemade soup and rolls, 40 different local cheeses, smoked salmon, Ardennes ham, and of course, beer. It’s at this point most people lost their interest in brewing, but not Carolee and I. We repeatedly made our way across the street to monitor the progress of the runoff and observe the boil. I even got to lend a hand with graining out. By the time the boil was over in the evening the wort finally received its first touch of stainless steel by way of the new counter-flow wort chiller and cylindroconical fermenters.

At the end of the evening, we sat down with Jean-Louis to talk shop and sample some beers from the cellar. The conversation turned to perception of flavor and variables that affect how a beer tastes. Jean-Louis claimed that the vessel used to drink out actually affects the flavor of the beer. To prove his point, he produced mugs made from glass, new pewter, old pewter, and ceramic to sample the same beer. To our astonishment he was right, there is a difference!

Jean-Louis was a wonderful host. If you are planning on visiting Belgium and touring breweries you must make a point of visiting, it is like stepping back in time.

Here is a recipe for Belgian Waffles. I’m trying to replicate the waffle we had in Poperinge with limited success but this recipe is pretty close.

Belgian Yeasted Waffles
3/4 stick butter
2 C. milk
2 t. dry yeast
1 T. sugar
½  t. salt
2 C. flour
3 eggs, separated
1 t. vanilla extract

Melt butter in small pot on low. When melted, add milk and heat to lukewarm. Add yeast, sugar, salt, and flour and combine. Let sit for 1-2 hours for yeast to rise. Separate eggs. Add egg yolks and vanilla extract to batter and combine. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and fold into batter. Cook in waffle iron.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exploring Colorado

A beautiful view from the Million Dollar Highway

 People travel from all around to visit Fort Collins and check out all the wonderful breweries that the city has to offer.  As an employee of Funkwerks who works in the taproom I get the benefit of encountering people from all around.  Nothing is better then chatting with individuals that go out of their way to check out what Funkwerks has to offer, especially when they are visitng from other breweries. So as soon as I had the chance, I made time to do the same thing- Nicole (who also works at Funkwerks) and I took four days off together to travel through beautiful Colorado and cram in as many brewery visits and activities as possible.

We drove from Fort Collins to Palisade where we stayed the first night.  Palisade was great to us.  Not only do they have multiple wineries and a meadery that we had the luxury to walk to from our carefully planned hotel, but we also hit up the wonderful Peach Street Distillery and Palisade Brewery that are right next to each other. How convenient. The people working were informative and helpful and gave us advice on the must-sees of Palisade as well as Grand Junction.

The next morning, as early as we could possibly get out of bed, we hit the road because we knew we had a lot of stops before we hit our final destination of Durango.  The next stop was Grand Junction and since we were on a time crunch we only stopped at Kannah Creek Brewing Company, and I'm glad we did.  The service was great, the food was fabulous, and the beer was delicious. They even let us peek in the back and check out their brewery set up too.

Jumping back on the road we drove through Montrose, where we stopped at Horsefly Brewing Company before taking off to Ouray as our next stop. Ouray is where Colorado drastically changes
from Fort Collins.  The landscape was something pictures just cannot justify. The Ouray Brewery was fun and laid back and had swings that we sat on right at the bar.  We heard all about the Million Dollar Highway and how beautiful and scary the drive could be.  So what else could we do but hit the road and check it out. I drove, and admittedly I am scared of heights, so I took my sweet time as I clenched the steering wheel through most of it.  The day was beautiful and the hour drive to Silverton flew by.  We stopped at the Silverton Brewing Company where we met some nice people and checked out the cute shops.

After budgeting our time we realized that we needed to get to Durango so we could settle in for the night. I have heard nothing but wonderful things from people about Durango and I could not have
agreed more. We spent the next two days eating great food, drinking awesome beer and soaking up the wonderful weather. We ate breakfast at Carver Brewing Co, dinner at Steamworks and enjoyed beers at Durango Brewery and Ska Brewery. We could not have planned it any better.

After all that fun we headed back on our eight-hour drive to Fort Collins. We had to squeeze one more place in so we stopped to have lunch at Rockslide Brewery in Grand Junction.  It was sad to have to end the trip, but the Front Range is a pretty good deal too.

The conclusion of my travels was not only that Colorado is a beautiful state, but the camaraderie that the other breweries showed us was so awesome that it made me respect and like this industry even more.  I recommend everyone who loves beer and chatting it up with great people take some time to take advantage of this great state and all it has to offer.  Thank you to all the wonderful breweries that showed us a good time on our mini vacation.

Cheers Colorado! And thank you for making great beer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Festival Season

Funkwerks assistant brewer Andy Mitchell running our tent at Gnarly Barley Brew Fest.

We are deep into festival season here at Funkwerks. While there's no official start to the season, June, July, August, and September tend to brim with beer festivals. It's nice out, people are relaxed, looking forward to vacations, and life is good. Beer people are good people, and create a fun energy at each event. 

One of the best things about festivals is all the different beers available - the embarrassment of riches. It can also be overwhelming when you're trying to decide what you want to drink. The variety allows people to find new beers they love, and we enjoy each opportunity to introduce our beers to more people. Last weekend found us at at the Gnarly Barley Brew Fest in Loveland. At the end of August, we're taking the show on the road to the Great Nebraska Beer Fest. We will also have tastings at various locations throughout the coming months. 

In addition to festivals and tastings, Team Funk will be participating in the Brewers Olympics at Fort Collins Brewery Friday, August 24th. Our team (Nicole, Natalie, Arthur, and Andy) will be transferring beer, holding pitchers, and competing in other such beery events. Come out and watch us win, or heckle; either way, it will be a good time. 

Check out our event page ( for descriptions on where to find us in the coming weeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Swimming Against the Current

Natalie graining out at Coopersmith'swhere she shadowed at a brewery for the first time.    

I have never been one to listen to others when they tell me that I am incapable of accomplishing something. I was always the smallest girl in my classes and at a very young age had to learn how to hold my own.

My mother signed me up for my first martial arts course at the tender age of 6. Being the stereotypical Italian mother, she didn’t want anyone pushing me around. I had several people tell me that I wouldn’t be able to tough out sparing with men twice my size long enough to become a black belt. At the age of 13 I had earned my first-degree black belt in three styles (Kempo, Kung Fu, and Tae Kwon Do) and received the title of “Assistant Instructor”.

As a result of several family hardships, completing my college degree was another accomplishment that many people told me I would not do. In 2011 I graduated with an honors diploma in Biochemistry from Colorado State University.

During my undergraduate career, I took the Brewing Science and Technology course taught by Dr. Jack Avens. That was just the beginning of my journey to discovering what my true passion is. I made it my mission to be hired into the brew house at a brewery because I knew that it was what I was meant to do. I was lucky enough to have two individuals believe in me enough to hire me. In March of this year I received a call from one of the Funkwerks owners, Brad Lincoln, offering me a position in production. That was the happiest day of my life.

Natalie along with her Brewing Science and Technology instructor, DrJack Avens (center).    

As a woman in the brewing industry I have encountered my fair share of difficulties. I frequently hear “You aren’t strong enough to carry that” and “You are a girl, you don’t know anything about beer”. A lot of people thought I would have had quite enough of it by now. But I haven’t. I enjoy showing people that women can be just as much of an asset to a brewery as men. Every woman I have met that works in production at a brewery is an amazing person in her own way. I am incredibly proud to be part of the small percentage of women that work in a brewery.

Never let someone tell you what you are incapable of when it comes to seeing your dreams come true.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Belgian IPA

The hop blend pre-dry hop addition. 

Since I began working for Funkwerks last July I’ve wanted to make a really hoppy beer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the subtle complexity of most Belgian styles, but sometimes I just want a beer with massive hop aroma.  When Gordon approached me about brewing a Belgian IPA to enter in the Belgo-American category at GABF this year I couldn’t wait to brew it! 

We sat down and figured out what we wanted in the beer.  We didn’t want it to be as dry as our saisons, so we used the Belgian yeast that we used for Fruition, Alchemy, and Ron Burgundy.  For hops we wanted to use some traditional American hops but throw in a wild card as well.  We settled on American Cascade, Centennial and German Emerald.  I’m very familiar with Centennial and Cascade, but Emerald was new to me.  It’s described as having a distinct fruity nose with flowery hop notes.  It was bred as a European alternative to Simcoe and Amarillo.  Sounded like fun to me!

We had a decent idea of malts we wanted to use, so Gordon put in the order and let me put together the recipe.  This was one of the more fun brewing projects I’ve done!  I was given three types of hops, some base malts, and free reign over the specialty malts we had on hand.  I settled on pale malt, some munich, and a small amount of crystal malts that we had on hand.  I wanted a big hop aroma so I had one bittering addition and saved the rest for a large whirlpool addition and even larger dry-hop addition.

We think this beer came out really well!  It has a big hop aroma and restrained bitterness.  There’s a bit of Belgian character in there, but the hops are the star.  We are excited to brew this again and tweak it to perfection.  If you don’t get a chance to try it at our taproom (or one of the bars we distribute to), be sure to stop by at GABF and give it a shot!


A full glass of Belgian IPA on the Funkwerks patio.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Colorado Brewers’ Festival 2012

The Colorado Brewers’ Festival is always such a fun weekend to celebrate great beer, and this year’s festival was record breaking in heat as well!

Funkwerks kicked off the festivities on Friday evening at the Connoisseur Beer Tasting Party, hosted by our friends at Choice City Butcher and Deli. The event was a great way for us to showcase a new beer that is normally only available in our taproom. I personally poured the beer to partygoers, and I must say, our Belgium Double aged in red wine barrels was a hit! It was also nice to visit the different brewery tables and catch up with old friends while meeting new ones.

On to the big party … the Downtown Business Association stepped up to the heat this year and made the triple digit days as comfortable as possible. Starting with the kind greeting at the entrance from volunteers with sunscreen, to the water stations to keep us hydrated, the DBA continues to make each year better and better. The re-zoning of the grounds was a great help, too, with added shade to sit and relax to some live music at Washington Park.

Busy both days with lines of beer lovers wrapping every-which-way to try that next micro-creation, the festival maintained a vibe of happiness all weekend. Fort Collins is full of wonderful people, and our guests were a joy to have. With the new option to purchase a full glass of beer, if festival-goers stumbled across that Golden Gem, it created a chance to take a break from standing in line and check out the other booths, or simply stand in front of the fan misters for a minute or two.

We decided to bring our ever-popular Tropic King to the festival, and the Imperial Saison delighted the masses again this year. It’s always a good sign when you don’t have to bring beer back home!

Well, we all made it through the weekend and got some nice tans, too – another year at the Colorado Brewers’ Festival in the books full of good, sud-soaked memories. Thank you to the DBA, our fellow Colorado brewers, and you all who attended the festival for making it such a great event. We’re already looking forward to fun times next year!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Our new cases for distributing bottles.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog post. With all the other things going on it always seems to fall by the wayside. It’s a shame because you really need to stop once in a while to gain perspective on where you’ve been and where you are going.

The past year has seen quite a few changes. With Saison winning a medal at GABF last year, Funkwerks has popped up on people’s radar and sales continue to grow. New tanks were installed in January which gave us some much needed capacity and the ability to do more experimental beers for the taproom and seasonal releases. One of the first being Brett Dream which is a beer we pilot brewed over two years ago but haven’t been able to get into the schedule until recently.

Brett Dream also marked the start of more wild / sour releases. We brewed a highly dry-hopped Belgian ale last month that is currently bottle conditioning with Brettanomyces and last week we brewed a full blown sour beer in the Oud Bruin style that will go into red wine barrels and may see
the light of day in 18-24 months.

Not only are we looking to expand our barrel program in the future, we also plan on expanding to 30-barrel tanks, which would double our batch sizes of Saison and Tropic King. We’ve also recently designed and purchased new case boxes for our bottles which we’re excited to put into circulation.
On the technical side, we’ve slowly gotten our lab up and running and have already made changes in our process to improve our fermentations and yeast health. We also added filtration to our water supply to ensure clean, sediment-free brewing water.

So there you have it, the state of Funkwerks. I’m excited to see what the next year has in store for us!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

White Becomes A Seasonal

A full glass of White alongside a bottle sporting the new label design.

If Funkwerks had a beer yearbook, I think it would be safe to say that Saison would be voted ‘Most Popular’. Not only is the Saison our head brewer’s ‘baby’ and our flagship beer, but it’s also the winner of a silver medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. While it’s debatable which beer would be given ‘Best Eyes’ or ‘Most Athletic’, I’d like to nominate our White for ‘Biggest Flirt’.

For as big of a beer town as Fort Collins is, it’s always surprising to me how many people come into the brewery claiming that they don’t like beer. Often when I encounter someone claiming this, I’ll hand them a sample of White (only after checking their ID, of course) and wait for their response. Most people’s faces light up with joy as they indulge in the White and discover that they do, in fact, like beer. I’m sure White is not the only beer to have converted non-beer believers, but I do see White work it’s magic frequently.

It should come as no surprise that White is extremely likeable- it’s accessible, light, and delicious. Although it began it’s presence in the Funkwerks taproom as a beer we’d always have on tap, it has recently been declared a summer seasonal. Even though it’s popular and much loved, like a summer fling it will be gone once cooler weather begins moving in.

If you frequent our taproom you’ve probably seen the words ‘test batch’ scribbled next to White on the chalkboard once or twice. During these times our brewers were working to make White even more appealing by striving to fine-tune certain aspects of it’s wit style. The original White, which was released when we first opened in December 2010, was extremely dry- almost too dry to be classified as a wit- so in December of 2011 we began experimenting with our recipe. We first pinned the problem on our house saison yeast, which is highly attenuative. After experimenting with several Belgian yeasts we couldn’t find a yeast that added a flavor as satisfying as our original, so we decided to stick with our house saison yeast and return to the drawing board. Next we tried increasing the amount of malt in the brewing process, thus increasing the sugar, and also increasing the ABV from 5.5% to 6.5%. We found that the higher gravity, along with a larger addition of spices, gave our White the right amount of sweet and the right amount of spice it needed to be more enticing to your taste buds.

Another subtle change involved swapping citrus peels. While our original recipe used grapefruit peel, we settled on using lemon peel for our current batch of White. Grapefruit peel had a slightly harsher bite, where as the lemon peel adds a softer citrus flavor, making it smooth and easily enjoyable.

And I must say, White isn’t a bad beer to look at either. The rocky white head and light, clouded pour make it look like the refreshing thirst quencher it is, perfect for a hot summer day. Add to that a sleek new blue label to help promote the fact that we’ve changed the recipe, and this a beer you want to bring home with you.

Popular and continuously satisfying, yet changing and at times elusive, the White keeps us interested without overwhelming us. We enjoy it while it’s here and miss it when it’s gone. Like the one who was voted ‘Biggest Flirt’ in your high school class, the White has a way of staying on our mind which keeps us coming back for more. I hope you’re as enticed by the new White as we are here at Funkwerks!