Meet the Brewers: CAUTION Brewing Co.

If you’ve never heard of CAUTION, no one would blame you… yet.  They are one of a number of new breweries that are beginning to pop up all over the Denver metro area (ie. Copper Kettle Brewing Co., Renegade Brewing Co., Denver Beer Co., etc).  These guys have only been at this (on a professional scale) for close to a year, but they aren’t holding anything back.  The brewery lies in one of those areas that make you wonder how the hell it’s still considered Denver, but they like it that way.

I originally visited them back in May when Danny and Betty were gracious enough to let me and my fiance hang out with them while they were brewing.  We got to help stir the mash and learned a lot about who these two are and what makes them tick.  I liked hanging out with them so much, I came back to do an interview.

Here’s a look at their beers:

Lao Wang Lager

A spiced Asian lager brewed with a blend of secret Asian spices inspired from the recipes at Lao Wang Noodle House in Denver. This unique lager combines delicate spices, organic wild rice blend, and refreshingly clean and crisp lager characteristics.

Honey Matrimony Brown Ale

A perfect union of Colorado malts and Colorado wildflower honey, this American Brown ale is surprisingly light and drinkable, despite it’s dark appearance. This delightful ale was originally brewed to be served at a good friend’s wedding, but has grown in popularity to be enjoyed equally at other events and hopefully at a bar near you soon!

Wild Blonde Ale

Brewed with a healthy helping of organic wild rice, this summer blonde ale is well balanced, smooth and full of body. Made with the same ingredients as summer dreams, camping trips, and endless days, this blonde will compliment the best days of summer.

Their first beer, Lao Wang Lager, is available on tap at Danny’s parent’s restaurant, Lao Wang Noodle House.  If you can’t guess how the beer got it’s name you should probably stop reading now.  As for their other brews, they are about to start shopping kegs to local ale houses so keep an eye out.  I was privileged enough to taste the Lao Wang Lager while it was fermenting and although it was still on the yeasty side (expected since it was still fermenting), the spice profile was unlike any beer I’ve ever tasted – in a good way.

I sat down with Danny Wong and Betty Fey to talk about why they got into brewing and where they’re going with it.  Here’s what they had to say:

How did you guys get the idea to start a brewery?

Danny:  It came from a tap room visit at New Belgium about 3 years ago.
Betty:  We were on the tour and we both went to the bathroom about the same time and we came out and looked at each other and said “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”  The rest was history after that.  Then we were too stupid at the beginning to realize how hard it would be and we were too stubborn to give up.

Was that your first brewery tour?

Danny:  No.
Betty:  We had a goal that year to visit every single brewery in Denver.  That was like our New Years Resolution or something.  It was in January or February when we came up with this crazy idea to start a brewery.
Danny:  It just came from a random idea and we were like lets just had a look to see how feasible it is.  We picked up home brewing to get our feet wet.  It’s been a few years now and we’ve been home brewing for quite a while.  It kind of… got out of control quickly.  We did get lucky though.  We ended up with Odell’s 5 barrel brewing system that we jumped on pretty quickly and managed to pick up.
Betty:  It’s exactly the size we were looking for and it’s a really, really good system.  It’s just awesome with efficiency.  It’s something that can last us another 10-20 years.
Danny:  It’ll last forever.  We’re hoping some day we will outgrow this and use it as a pilot system.
Betty:  Right now our pilot system is a little 10 gallon boiler.
Danny:  We also got lucky with a couple big fermenters and a couple brite tanks.  We can scale up from here, which is good.

Have you thought of where you might like to have a tap room?

Danny:  The Stapleton area wouldn’t be too bad, it’s growing and there’s a lot of outlier areas towards the airport.  It’s the right kind of crowd for craft beer and there’s a demand for it.
Betty:  And Denver’s already a bit saturated.

Do you think we’re approaching a bubble in the Denver craft beer industry?

Danny:  You would think so.  It all depends on how you brand yourself and how careful you are when you do business.  I mean, everyone can survive as long as they do it right.  Everyone’s going to have different, awesome craft beers, which is so cool.  We still aren’t the highest per capita for craft beer yet… Oregon is.

What are you backgrounds?

Betty:  Well… neither of us are Native Americans.
Danny:  Well no shit.
Betty:  [Laughs] Sorry, neither of us were born in the US.  We’re both immigrants.

So where are you from?

Betty:  I’m from Germany, he’s from Taiwan.  We’re really, really glad we’re here because I don’t think we would have had the same opportunities there as we do here.

What were you doing before brewing?

Mr. Roboto - Courtesy of Danny's Facebook Page

Danny:  We’re still keeping our day jobs.  I’m a Computer Science major, still doing that.  It pays most of the bills.  I just love hands-on technology and getting things to work.  We have that remote control system (right) where we can control our whole setup – fermenters, temperature, and all that from anywhere as long as we have an internet connection.
Betty:  We were in California and Danny was like “Oh I gotta crash the lager, let me pull out my phone.”

So this is something no one else has?

Danny:  I really don’t think anyone has their stuff remotely controlled, that I know of.

What type of stuff are you able to control?

Danny:  We are working on being able to control our pumps, but right now it’s primary purpose is controlling the process of the fermentor.  As we all know, lagering take more than just holding it at 68 degrees for 2 weeks and then you’re done.  Lagering goes through initial fermentation, then you have to crash it slowly, and then co-conditioning, etc, etc.  It’s all very set.  When you brew a certain beer, you kind of know this beer at this gravity is going to be at this point in so many days.  Our system right now is on a script, basically, and controls it based on time.  As soon as we’re done brewing we hit start and it just goes.  It controls fermentation throughout the entire process.  So basically the only thing we do is check on it to make sure it is doing its thing to be sure that the mechanical things are running.  As far as we know, we’re the only one that’s doing it.
Betty:  It also helps us because other breweries have Brew Masters that are there to actually watch it.  Since we still have day jobs we can’t be there all day long.

Is this something you’d like to market in the future?

Danny:  We’re not in the business of selling services, so we probably won’t do any of that.
Betty:  We’re too busy making beer.

And what is your background Betty?

Betty:  Right now I’m working at a German Engineering company, but I’m not an engineer.  I do admin stuff.  I’ve been working there for about 7 years.  Before that I’ve done every single job that I could find.  I’ve been working almost every day of my life since I was 12.  I got my MBA a couple years ago so I was working full time and going to night-study stuff.  I don’t consider this (brewing) a job, it’s just a very elaborate hobby.

Can you talk about the special ingredients you use in the Lao Wang Lager?

Danny:  Probably not…

OK you don’t have to tell me what it is, but how did you get it?

Danny:  It is the same kinds of spices my parents use at their restaurant.
Betty:  We were actually just doing home brew batches when Danny’s dad, the owner of the restaurant, came to us with this satchel.  It had spikey things poking out the cloth and he said “Try this in your beer.”  We happened to be making a lager and we said, yeah, lets put it in the beer and see what happens!
Danny:  So we checked it out and brewed with it.  We took a bunch of batches and did a lot of sensory calibration.
Betty:  It turned out so awesome we said we have to make this on the big scale.
Danny:  It’s a combination of secret Asian spices.  It’s a family recipe which makes it very unique.  You just can’t identify it.  If we only had one of the spices in there you might be able to identify it, but put them all together there’s no chance.  If anyone wants to try to identify any of that… well, good luck!  We want to keep this one exclusive (to Lao Wang Noodle House), that’s for sure.

Are you at liberty to talk about anything you’re working on?

Danny:  Well we’re doing a wild rice blonde in a few weeks called Wild Blonde.
Betty:  We also have an IPA coming up later this year.
Danny:  And we’re looking at doing a Halloween release of some sort.
Betty:  Every Halloween we want to do a crazy, dark, weird batch of beer which we’ll probably just do a 10 barrel batch of.  Our favorite holiday is Halloween, so we want to do a Halloween seasonal versus a Christmas seasonal.

What is your favorite of the two beers you’ve released so far?

Danny:  I subscribe to the theory that I don’t like to do the same thing all the time.  Life is too short to try the same things.  As far as my favorite goes, it changes depending upon what I’m doing.  We made our beers to cater to certain situations, certain foods, etc.  The Lao Wang Lager is awesome with any Asian food.  If I’m sitting down just wanting to have a beer, Honey Matrimony is awesome too.  They’re both very focused.

Do you guys have a favorite beer that’s not your own?

Danny:  I would say one of my all-time favorites is Dogfish Head Punk’n.
Betty:  [Groans] No, that’s my favorite, you can’t have it!  Maharaja is another really good beer.  One of my favorites from one of the smaller breweries here is Strange’s Cherry Bomb.  I freakin’ love that beer.

At some point do you want to get into bottling your beer?

Danny:  At some point, I think we’d like to do cans.  The price of entry is a little bit less and it’s easier distribution.  It just makes more sense and its so much more green.  The glass wastes gas, it wastes time, the equipment costs more, it’s just wasteful.
Betty:  Plus you can drink by the pool.
Danny:  Canning, I definitely think, is where it’s going to be.  Glass bottles are going to go by the wayside 10-20 years from now.

How did you come up with your name?

Betty:  What we wanted our brewery to say led us to the CAUTION name.  There’s a lot of Colorado breweries that have a wilderness theme going on.  It’s Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, things like that.  We kind of have a sick sense of humor and like signs where people are getting hurt like the guy jumping in the pool and the head splatting open or when you see the hands going into the gears and the fingers getting all messed up.
Danny:  We went backwards.  We did marketing and branding first, then we went with the name.  Our message is be irreverent and fun.

Do you guys have any advice for home brewers that want to open their own brewery?

Danny:  I’d say join a home brew club and if they’re completely insane I’d say go for it!
Betty:  There’s a fine line between genius and insanity and you have to be teetering on that line.
Danny:  I think it’s good that of everyone we know, so far everyone has pulled it off and opened… which is huge.  You can read online there’s plenty of tiny breweries with dreams that can’t open, whether they were undercapitalized, didn’t realize what was going into it, couldn’t find investments, the list goes on to what can happen starting up.  Starting up really is the hardest part.  The rest of it, just let your product and your marketing speak for itself.  For the home brewers, keep brewing the beers you want to drink.  That’s our biggest thing.  We brew beers out of categories and styles.  The Lao Wang Lager is completely out of style.  And unless you’re going to spend a ton of money and hire a Brew Master, learn about your beer.  Learn, learn, learn, learn… that’s the best advice I can give.
Betty:  Don’t stop experimenting either.  Sometimes the best beer comes from a happy accident.

Anything else you guys would like to put out there?

Betty:  [Whispers to Danny] Can we talk about the [mumbles something]?
Danny:  Not yet.  Well, we can say this: there’s something exciting “brewing”.
Betty:  Something neat.

In a city where craft beer is king, CAUTION is seeking to break the mold and I can’t wait to see what they will bring to the table.  Danny and Betty may not be your ‘typical’ brewers… but is there such a thing?  My next interview in the series will be Renegade Brewing Co., so feel free to share some questions in the comments that you’d like to see answered!

UPDATE: After our interview, CAUTION: Brewing Co. entered into the Jefferson County Beer Fest and took home two 1st Place awards and Best Overall for their Lao Wang Lager and Honey Matrimony Brown.  Congrats guys!

CAUTION: Brewing Co.

12445 E. 39th Ave., Unit 314
Denver, CO 80239
(970) 315-BREW
http://www.cautionbrewingco.com/

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Here are the rest of the pictures I took while hanging out with Danny and Betty:

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.