Meet the Brewers: Copper Kettle Brewing Company

For my first stop in the ‘Meet the Brewers’ series, I’ve traveled a whole mile from my house.  Copper Kettle Brewing Company (CKBC) opened it’s doors for the first time just a few short weeks ago on April 22, 2011.  Imagine my excitement when I found out that a brewery was going to open within walking distance of my place!  Even better, the High Line Canal Trail essentially leads me straight to it (now if only I owned a bike).  Some friends and I stopped by for opening night and had a good time sampling the 5 beers on tap.  While they don’t have a kitchen, they have a steady rotation of food trucks to satisfy their patrons.  I’ve been back a handful of times and I’m happy to say I continue to enjoy each new beer they release.

Here’s a look at brews on their rotating tap list:

[unordered_list style=”star”]

  • Copper Mezzina Ale – a rich copper colored pale ale
  • Bavarian Helles – a clean and refreshing golden blonde lager
  • Biergarden Dunkel – a dark Munich lager with a deep brown color
  • Saison Savoureux – farmhouse that combines pilsener, wheat, ground pepper, and orange peel (homebrew competition winner by Ward Argust)
  • Imperial Red Ale* – a malty amber ale crossed with an intensely hopped IPA
  • Summer Ale – pale ale brewed with orange peel and ground coriander
  • Mexican Chocolate Stout** – a rich black ale with dark roasted malt flavors blended with bittersweet chocolate, Mexican chili peppers, and cinnamon
  • Roggenbier*** – rye beer with undertones of citrus and clove[/unordered_list]

* = my favorite     ** = my 2nd favorite     *** = my 3rd favorite

I sat down with husband and wife team Jeremy Gobien, PhD (Head Brewer) and Kristen Kozik (General Manager) to chat about their first few months as professional brewers.  Here’s what they had to say:

How did you guys get started?

Kristen:  We’ve been together for 4 years and began home brewing together after about 4 months…  neither of us had done it before.  We had been doing home brewing for 2 years in North Carolina, just making larger and larger batches on a 10 gallon system.  In 2008, we made over 200 gallons at home.  We would just have huge parties and people would rank which ones they liked best.  So we got a feel for which beers, at certain times of the year, people liked better.  We brought those recipes here with us.  (Kristen is a nurse part-time at Children’s Hospital in addition to her GM role at CKBC)

Jeremy:  I didn’t go to school for brewing (but he does have a PhD in Materials Engineering).  I learned to brew by reading (points to a pile of books on brewing available for anyone to read while hanging out at Copper Kettle) and lots of practice.  Opening a brewery was actually plan B because we didn’t think we had the money it would take.  I had hoped to get a job teaching after we moved to Denver, but that didn’t work out.

How would you describe Copper Kettle?

Kristen: We had a vision of a local community bar where people could walk or bike to, where our customers know the owners and we would know them by name.  Kind of getting back to how breweries and pubs used to be as a neighborhood bar rather than one you’d have to drive to.

How did you come up with the name?

Jeremy: When we were deciding on a name, we thought a lot about how it made you feel when you say it.  If you look at some of the other brewery names out there, like Renegade or Rogue, they just sound intense.  Copper is a warm, comforting metal that has a history in brewing.

So what sparked the move from North Carolina to Denver?

Kristen: We wanted to be at the heart of the brewing industry, and Denver and Portland are two of the top in the United States.  We thought at first that being oversaturated might be a problem for us as a new brewery, but it hasn’t at all.  Most of the breweries in Denver really work with newer breweries to get them off their feet, it’s not a competition at all.

What’s your brewing system look like?

Jeremy:  We’re using a 3-barrel system with 3 fermenting tanks.  I definitely think that upgrading to a 7-barrel system is in the short term plans, we have plenty of space for it.

Any plans to distribute?

Kristen:  Within the next 6-8 months we want to distribute out just to small pubs or delis that are serving wine and beer, but nothing big. To some people it might seem like the wrong decision not to distribute right away, but to us we really wanted to establish ourselves here as a tasting room before we distribute it out… and knowing which ones to distribute out.

What’s your favorite beer (of your own and from another brewer)?

Kristen:  Roggenbier by Copper Kettle and Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head

Jeremy:  Copper Mezzina Ale by Copper Kettle and Espresso Oak Aged Yeti by Great Divide

A lot of couples say they could never work together, how have you guys handled it?

Jeremy:  It definitely adds stress to the relationship, but mostly because of the extra hours… sometimes putting in 12-16 hour days on your ‘days off’.  It’s necessary to keep work and personal lives separate in order for it to work.  Brewing has probably broken up a lot of marriages, but I think we’re doing very well.

Any new beers on the horizon?

Kristen:  The next one coming on, maybe in a month, will be a Black Lager (Schwartzbier) and we’re hoping for a Kolsch by the end of August.  By the fall we may do a Currant Brown Ale as well.

Jeremy:  I want us to brew session beers throughout the year to keep variety in the brewery.  Brews will be forever changing.

What beer would you like to brew the most?

Jeremy:  I’d love to do a really good Imperial Stout.

Any tips for those home brewers out there that are looking to go pro?

Kristen:  Owning a micro-brewery is 90% business and 10% beer.  If you want to own your own business you have to have the time, the dedication, the passion, and the will-how to know how to run a business.  It’s not just brewing beer… it’s marketing, it’s accounting, it’s advertising… it’s a lot more than just brewing beer.

Jeremy:  Raise more money than you think… a lot more money.  I think we were 25-30% over budget at one point.  It got to the point where I was sick of going to Lowe’s because it was one $200 trip followed by another $200 trip day after day.

Copper Kettle’s motto is “Bringing the local brewery back”, something I think they’ve accomplished.  Despite only being open a short time, CKBC already has a loyal fan base.  Shortly after opening, they introduced their Brew Club (similar to other bar/brewery Mug Clubs) which allow you to earn your very own mug that’s stored for you at Copper Kettle.  Kristen states they already have 5 members in the Brew Club with about 5 more in the wings.  I’ve still got a long way to go, even after downing 2 pints (Imperial Red Ale and Roggenbier) during the interview… but I’ll be back.

Copper Kettle Brewing Company

1338 S. Valentia St
#100, Denver, CO 80247
(720) 443-2522

http://www.copperkettledenver.com/

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Interested in biking to Copper Kettle? Check out Nick Nunns’ article Wagon Rides: Copper Kettle.

Hated the questions I asked?  Suggest some new ones for my next interview in the comments!

About Sean Buchan


Sean is a Physical Therapist and Photographer living in (and loving) Denver, Colorado. He enjoys shooting just about anything but his true passion is capturing the craft beer culture here in Denver. If you enjoy his photographs check out Beertographer.