Tap Room Tour: Black Shirt Brewing
Here is a brewery I've attempted to visit on three occasions and each time they were closed. Twice I arrived too early and once too late. This time I reviewed their hours over and over and determined it was safe to visit and voila they were open. Closing at 9 PM on a Saturday seems early, right? I did overhear a guest ask about the odd hours and the bartender had an interesting reply: "we want to be people's first drink, not their last." I can appreciate that. That’s an intriguing philosophy that I am sure all the staff prefer. In a way I think Black Shirt Brewing might be more interested in making their beer more accessible around Denver rather than in their tap room. As a result I've had plenty of luck trying their beer outside of their tap room, but this post is about the place that makes that beer.
You'll find Black Shirt Brewing on the far end of the RiNo district (best parking is in the back). The attractive patio and cool sign stick out as a sort of oasis on a sparsely populated block. The reclaimed wood of the interior, well-appointed art and the spotless brewery make for great ambiance. There's even a newly added beer garden/patio in the back. A record player sits on the bar and from what I understand spins every Wednesday. Simply, it's a great spot to enjoy a beer. Well, except for the glassware. Every legitimate tap room should have good glassware and avoid shaker pints. Black Shirt Brewing does that, but they go a bit too far with the silly Offero Glasses. I never though a glass could be as pretentious as Offero. I respect the idea of a glass that enhances aroma, but Offero glasses are such a pain to use. Every time you take a sip you have to focus on what you’re doing or watch out for a Red Ale stain on your shirt. Then most people use them incorrectly by drinking out of the high end of the glass (which seems like the more natural way to use the glass). A glass shouldn’t have instructions! Argh, I hate these things! I hope they go away. There are tons of great beer glasses out there that should be use instead. Anyway, I’ll shut up about that now.
There were only a few guests when I visited. Because of that I can’t really say what type of crowd you will find there during peak hours. The staff was friendly enough and all of them seemed particularly proud of being part of Black Shirt Brewing. I think that’s a good sign. The one takeaway from my visit is that Black Shirt Brewing takes beer and brewing very seriously and they go out of their way to create a high quality product and experience. On an antique typewriter on the corner of the bar they have a sort of manifesto rising up from the rollers. A paragraph that is repeated twice declares:
We make Red Ales and wear Black Shirts. In our pursuit of perfection, we embrace where we come from, revel in our past, hone our craft, and push the envelope, and choose one thing and for it better than anyone else.
You can see much of that statement in action when visiting Black Shirt Brewing.
As I mentioned earlier, before visiting Black Shirt Brewing I had already tried many of their beers and purchased a few of their six packs. The Red Saison is particular favorite (especially for my wife). All of their beer is clean and well made. You’re not going to find big diacetyl bombs, acetaldehyde, DMS or any of the other big flaws in these beers. They only make ales and all of them are well balanced. It’s refreshing to go to a brewery and not have a bunch of over the top hoppy, sour, boozy, EXTREME, BRO beers. Just beer here.
The one thing that Black Shirt uses to differentiate themselves from other breweries is their Red Ale Project. The idea is that all beers are based off the base grist used in their flagship beer the Red Ale (I don’t know their sales, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Ale is actually not their top seller). I like the idea of brewing a smaller selection of beers and perfecting those beers. Some breweries are trying too many different things instead of just perfecting a few beers. I also think the idea is a little silly. For example they have a so called “Red Porter” as one of their core beers. This very chocolaty porter is a rather dark red and well within the BJCP guidelines for a brown porter as far a color is concerned. In the end it just seems gimmicky and bizarrely restrictive like writing a novel without using the letter “e.” What’s the point, really? Ultimately, I think a brewery needs to be open to change in order to stay relevant and survive. People’s palates change and a brewery needs to have to the flexibility to change with them.
Should you go?
For sure. The hours might be a little hard to plan around, but you should take the time. More importantly, you should check out their beer. If you see it on tap or in your liquor store I would highly suggest giving them a try.