BRU Handbuilt Ales is small three-barrel brewery producing what company founder Ian Clark calls chef beers. BRU is located in a cul-de-sac in a quaint, residential neighborhood in North Boulder, Colo., and calls Clark’s garage its world headquarters. Although the brewery does not have a tap room open to the public, BRU beers can be sampled on draft at various notable Boulder craft beer hangouts and in bottles.
The brewery opened in March 2012 on a half-barrel homebrew system, and several months later—to keep up with demand—was upgraded to a custom designed and plumed three-barrel system, cold room, bottle conditioning storage and two conical fermenters, all with enough room left for two road bikes.
The story of BRU’s roots can be traced to a batch of homebrew, like many of the nations craft startup stories. Clark was a long-time home brewer:
“I had hundreds of bottles in my basement, wood, fruit, fermenters; it got a little out of hand,” said Clark. “One day, my wife said, ‘Why don’t you get your license?’ I pondered it, and then opened a brewery in my garage.”
Clark navigated through a bit of red tape to open a commercial brewery in his garage. However, after adding some extra security and getting a variance, BRU was approved to begin its operation.
Ian began commercially brewing 10 gallons at a time. He quickly outgrew this setup and upgraded to his current three-barrel system in June 2012, just three months after opening.
BRU sold its first keg to the West End Tavern in April and its second to Centro Latin Kitchen, where Clark is a full-time chef. His life-long career provided inspiration for what he calls “chef beers building on flavors.” These flavors come from lemon zest, juniper, dates, caramelized, lemongrass, black pepper, sugar and other atypical beer ingredients. BRU’s first two accounts have been steady customers throughout the brewery’s early growth.
This handbuilt process is not without challenges. Clark has handbuilt the entire operation. He brews weekly on Saturdays and Sundays, sells bottles by hand before and after his full-time job and manages the company in his remaining hours. Maintaining the handbuilt process throughout the brew process is challenging; all of BRU’s beers are naturally carbonated and unfiltered; further maintaining the handbuilt integrity.
“When I started, I thought I would just do it one day a week, take Sundays off,” Clark said, as he dumped a boiling pot of sugar and dates into the boil kettle. “[That was a] delusion.”
Clark said his biggest challenge thus far is keeping up with demand. As he ran back and forth managing the end of his brew day, he recounted the ups and downs of his startup.
“The first beer did not go well, beer ended up everywhere,” said Clark. “Things are going well now.”
As he hooks up a pump and plate chiller with ease and pumps the brown ale into a fermenter, it’s obvious he’s worked out the kinks. This is also apparent in the fantastic beer BRU is crafting. BRU Citrum IPA, an unfiltered beer brewed with juniper and lemon zest, features a subtle lemon and herb taste on the palette, blended with the citrus hops Cascade and Chinook.
Stop by the West End Tavern, in Boulder to try this IPA. BRU also has a brown ale, made with dates and caramelized sugar, on tap at Centro Latin Kitchen. Bottles will be available soon at Boulder area liquor stores.
This article was originally published in CU Independent on October 15, 2012.
Andrew Kaczmarek, is the current Craft Beer Program Intern, hop farmer, beer writer for the CU Independent, homebrewer and student at the University of Colorado in his final semester. When not pursuing hoppyness, as a Colorado native, he spends his free time skiing, camping or biking in the Rocky Mountains.