Wibby Brewing: A Lovibond of Lagers
“We have a lager for you, no matter your taste preferences,” says Ted Risk, the co-founder and director of sales and marketing at Wibby Brewing in Longmont, Colorado. And he means it.
Lagers might be light in body or mouthfeel, but they’re not always light in color— as proven by Wibby’s full lovibond of a tap list that includes Helles to Dunkel, and everything in between.
Risk’s business partner and Wibby co-founder is Ryan Wibby, a Boulder native who earned his brewing stripes back east at Ithaca Beer Company and Iron Hill Brewery before he moved to Germany to attend the acclaimed beer brewing school, VLB Berlin.
“I learned how to brew lagers from Germans,” Wibby says.
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He added on an internship that allowed him to sponge knowledge from the German brewmasters teaching him the craft. “That’s when I started designing a lot of the recipes that we’re using today,” he remembers.
Wibby headed to Oregon after brewing school to work at Deschutes Brewery’s production facility. A bit disenchanted with production brewing at the time despite how much he enjoyed Deschutes beer, Wibby missed getting his hands dirty in a smaller brewhouse.
“I went on a camping trip with Ted, who approached me about starting a business,” he reminisces. “[At] first [I] said no because it’s too much work and too much risk, but about 1.5 hours and an indeterminate number of beers later, we were telling everyone around the bonfire that we were opening a brewery together.”
The new brewery, which opened in 2015, gave Wibby an excuse to return to his roots in Longmont. It was a ripe beer market, he points out.
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“There are so many knowledgeable beer drinkers here, especially in Boulder where it all started,” he says. “Plus we found the perfect building for our brewery downtown. It allows us to hold events outside, to create the culture and brewery that we always dreamed of.”
Longmont was more than ready for Wibby’s easy-drinking, approachable lagers like the Lightshine Helles and its fruited sister, Lightshine Radler, that’s brewed with house-made raspberry lemonade.
Old World Techniques Blended with American Creativity
The approachability of their beers serves as a gateway to under-appreciated and often misunderstood lagers like their Moondoor Dunkel, which was awarded a silver medal from last year’s Great American Beer Festival® in the Munich-style Dunkel category.
“It’s dark in color but light and crisp in flavor,” Wibby says about Moondoor. “I wanted to mimic a traditional Munich-style dark lager, and I added a little American twist by using cacao nibs. They add more bitterness than sweetness to beer, and accentuate the coffee and malty and roasty flavors of the beer.”
That’s Wibby’s brewing philosophy: old world techniques blended with American creativity and ingenuity. This philosophy came in the form of what Wibby calls his “lightbulb moment” in brewing school. The infamous Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker was in town for an American hops expo, and he tasked Wibby’s class with brewing a traditional German-style lager beer using the American hops he’d brought with him.
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“So we made a strong, red, 17 Plato lager and threw tons of American hops in at the end of the boil,” he remembers. “And I guess it was pretty good because the doctorate students broke into our clubhouse and drank it all.”
Wibby can still recall the only bottle he scrounged from that India Pale Lager batch. “I remember opening it,” he says. “You could immediately tell it was made by an American, with pungent hoppy aroma and malty palatability.”
That recipe has lived on to become Wibby’s India Pale Lager, a red-hued lager with a smooth, malt finish and a pungent, citrusy hop aroma. “But we hopped it up even more for the American market,” he says.
IPL, Moondoor Dunkel, Lightshine Helles and Lightshine Radler are currently available in cans in the Longmont and Denver areas. Seasonal offerings – like Coffee Friends, Moondoor Dunkel lagered on Ozo Organic Blend Ground coffee, and Meat and Eggs Maibock, which is hopped with copious amounts of Hallertau Blanc, Mosaic, Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon hop varieties – rotate on draft at the brewery’s tasting room as well.
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Wibby Brewing is Poised for Growth
Poised for substantial growth, Wibby Brewing continues to overshoot its projections each year. The company plans to brew 4,500 barrels in its third year and looks toward long-term development as a regional brewery.
“Longmont has a great reputation within the beer community because of Oskar Blues and Left Hand Brewing,” says Risk. “Our intention is to be the third regional brewery in a town that already supports great beer.”
As they grow, one thing will always stay the same. “Fresh beer is king,” Risk says. No matter where and how much Wibby distributes, the company will always be committed to serving fresh beer.
There’s nothing better than a fresh, crisp lager, Wibby says. “That’s what I love about lagers – they leave your palate clean and ready for more.”
Wibby Brewing loves lagers so much, they throw an annual summer beer festival around the beer style. “Lagers for Lumber” is Colorado’s only festival dedicated to the lager and attracts lager-focused breweries. The festival is family friendly and also features swimming pools, crafts for kids, DJs and arcade games.
Indeed, the (beer) world is ready for more Wibby lagers.