About Black Shirt Brewing Co

Black Shirt Brewing Co is a progressive, artisanal brewery located in the RiNo Art District in Denver, CO. The brewery was founded by brothers Chad and Branden Miller and Chad's wife Carissa. Our focus is on creating unique, assertive, vibrant, complex, and ultimately perfectly-balanced beer. We do everything by hand, in small batches. No gimmicks. No bull shit.

Genuine. Passionate. Soulful. Authentic. Beer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Cold In Denver...

Last night was f*cking cold in Denver. It dipped into the single digits and I listened to my furnace work it's ass off all day yesterday and through the night to keep the house relatively warm. Yesterday was the kind of day where you put your clothes on, walk outside, and immediately turn around and change your game plan. It was a day to stay inside, cook, read, listen to music, catch up with friends, and decorate the Christmas tree. Today is much warmer, climbing into the high 20's with the sun shining bright. It's funny how much warmer it feels when the sun is out. I almost feel like I could work outside in a t-shirt. Although, I am not about to attempt it!

Just a few weeks ago, we made our last payment on the industrial glycol chiller that we have in our possession. When we purchased this piece of equipment, we couldn't get cash from the bank and we damn sure didn't have it in our pockets. My brother told the owner of the equipment that if he could act as the bank and finance it, we could make payments and he could get it out of his possession. He wanted to sell the chiller, as he is in the business of doing, and we wanted to purchase it for the brewery. The terms were set and both parties satisfied! Now, after several payments, that sucker is ours! We have yet to fire it up and use it, but we definitely know that we got a damn good deal on this machine and even though it may need a little coaxing back to life, it's gonna be a workhorse for us. 

The day after Thanksgiving our Kickstarter campaign ended, short of our financial goal. We were so flattered by the number of friends and family that all pledged way more to our project than they could really afford. There is a great number of believers in this project and we will work hard to show them why. We were also a bit shocked that the campaign didn't get more traction from people outside of our circle. But that's the way it goes, and we have learned from it. Although we didn't hit our financial goal, the bigger goal is to open the brewery and we are still kicking ass on that one! Sure Kickstarter would have eased a few financial burdens and allowed us to move a little faster, but we are still on track to open the brewery in the spring of 2012. My brother said it in a very cool way the other day. He said "if you are going to restore a 1968 Roadrunner, you can do it in a month if you have $100,000. If you don't have that huge amount of cash at your disposal, you can still build the car, it just takes more time and effort. And that is where we are at. It's still going to be a badass artisanal brewery. Our dream is still gonna come true. It's just taking a little longer and we are having to work harder!" Nothing good comes easy, right!

Piece by piece, little by little, just like the story of our glycol chiller, we are gonna get this little brewery open and blow people's minds! Stay warm and stay tuned...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall-ish In Denver...

As I sit here looking out the window at the beauty that Denver offers, I am feeling so connected and inspired. Earlier this week, we set a new record high temperature in the city, only to be followed by a sizable winter storm on Wednesday that dropped several inches of heavy, wet snow and crippled Denver for almost a day. Tree branches broke and smashed unsuspecting cars, and power lines snapped and left thousands of people without electricity for hours. There is a saying here - "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes!" It is a laughable notion but one that proves true more often than not. The weather here is dynamic. It is moody. It gives us the best of the best and, every now and then, the worst of the worst. But without hardship, we wouldn't embrace success and the same goes for living in this great city. We are fortunate to live in a place that challenges us, and then rewards us so greatly.

The morning light earlier today, and even more so yesterday, was so brilliant bouncing off the fresh coat of white that I just stared in awe as I sipped my cup of coffee. I don't remember an early season snowstorm of this size in some time. I am sure it isn't the earliest or biggest on record, but the fact that even the trees and bushes weren't ready for it is a sign of it's untimeliness. In years past, Halloween is usually the day that the weather turns the corner from fall to winter. It was always so frustrating as a kid because it made trick-or-treating a burden instead of a blast. The ears and nose were turned to ice and we couldn't feel our fingers to open the candy we had just scored. But, as I said earlier, the sun is back and it's warmth is melting the snow so quickly that soon we will forget the storm even happened. We are now stronger and more prepared for the coming winter, and we will do our best to enjoy every little turn that Momma Nature has in store for us! Happy Halloween! Be safe, warm, and have fun!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Newest Addition To BSB...

We got our hands on a sweet, vintage tricycle complete with 3 speeds and a pop-up basket on the back. I haven't actually tried it, but I believe 2 cases of beer will fit in that basket! It has a great, faded red paint job and black wheels and tires, keeping it inline with the BSB aesthetic. We can now deliver by tricycle!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feeling So Humbled...

Upslope Brewing Co in Boulder recently wrote a short article about our relationship and mutual admiration. It was, in fact, written by Matt Cutter who is the founder and operator of Upslope Brewing. To say that the article was flattering would be a gigantic understatement. What we did as a company for them was the only thing that made sense. To have said no to their request would have been impossible. But, the way Matt perceived our actions and to know deeply how much it meant to him, has made a big impact on us all. We are so happy and feel so lucky to have such good friends as we enter this industry, and this new chapter in our lives. We have heard a lot about the brotherhood of brewers, but to experience it firsthand is entirely different. Go Upslope! And go BSB! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time Flies When You Are Havin Fun

Well, we find ourselves in the middle of fall here in Denver. The leaves are changing colors and falling off their branches in preparation of the coming winter. It is so beautiful! The afternoons are warm with highs in the 60s and 70s and then it is cooling off considerably in the evening. In fact, we have begun to hear the occasional roar of our furnace, a sound not heard for months! The body begs for a little additional sleep, and the stomach is constantly asking to be fed, a sure sign of the times! We have transitioned to acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squashes at the restaurant, and the first beautiful apples of the season have shown up recently.
 Around the brewery, we have been continuing the struggle for permits with the City of Denver, making progress at what seems to be a snail's pace. We recently received more beautiful stainless tanks that will serve as our hot and cold liquor tanks. It is always a fun time when more shiny pieces of equipment are delivered! We will be getting our 15-barrel fermenter back from Upslope Brewing Co in the next week or so, as they have gotten their Pale Ale back on the shelves, and have received two additional fermenters - requiring ours to get out of their way. Nice job guys! Keep up the good work!
Kickstarter has been going strong. We definitely have a long way to go to reach our goal, but the strong showing of support from family and friends has been amazing! We have been filming with Free Mind Productions on their follow up to Beer Culture. This time, they are planning to film at breweries around the country and, eventually, get this movie on the big screen. It has been fun and they are great guys! Motivated, inspired, and charging ahead at their goals. A story that we can relate to and get behind!
Happy Fall! - Black Shirt Brewing Co

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kickstarter Goes Live!

Today is a monumental day for Black Shirt Brewing Co. Over the past several years, we have spoken about our little brewery with anyone and everyone who would listen. We have talked about how our approach to beer is completely different from anything currently in the market. We have spoken with great pride and joy about our ideas, our passion for beer, and our need to be creative and to share our creations. And along the way, we have lit the fire in other people. Whether we have convinced them to chase their dream, or we have made them a believer in Black Shirt Brewing Co, the network of inspired people that we are proud to call our friends has multiplied many times over. We couldn't feel more blessed and thankful to have each and every one of these people in our lives.

On this day, we are doing something that we rarely do, but we need to now more than ever - we are asking for help. We have just launched our Kickstarter campaign. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, here is the link for more information. Basically, it's an online funding platform for creative projects. For us, it is a huge opportunity to gather our friends, family, and our community, in the hope of inspiring them to get behind us. We need more cash than we have to realize our dream, and to follow through with these ideas that we have spoken about for years. If you would like to help us out, here is the link to our kickstarter project. We can't do it without you! If you can donate $1 or $1000, every single bit helps. Please pass this link along to your friends and family, and together we can get Black Shirt Brewing Co off the ground!

A very warm and sincere Thank You,

Chad, Branden, and Carissa

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday, Sept 12th Update

Last week was a great week for Black Shirt Brewing Co. We heard back from Kickstarter that our project has finally been accepted, and we can start our online funding campaign. This is great news considering how badly we need a financial push to get the doors open. More details on the funding campaign are coming in the next few days. We also submitted our plans to the City of Denver Building Department, again, in the hopes of getting a construction permit. Finally, this time, we had all of the necessary forms and materials to submit our application, and now the project is under a 2 week review. I am sure there will be a number of hurdles, but at least we are moving forward...

A few pics of our friends Aaron and Kyle working their butts off for us. These guys are the best friends we could ask for, sacrificing their weekends for almost nothing in return, to help us out. Thanks a million guys!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Response To Brian Hernando...

Hey man, for some reason I couldn't comment back to you, but I wanted to respond.

I am glad you have gained a little from our miscellaneous ramblings and venting! As for your question of "what moved you to this step," there is no simple or quick answer to that. This project has been in the works, in one form or another, for over ten years now. It has always been a creative project that my brother and I shared.

As for the new location, size, etc., it came out of necessity. The TTB wouldn't allow us to brew commercially out of our home and so we set out to find a commercial space. In having to pay rent, it quickly became apparent that we would need to increase the size of our brewery in order to brew enough beer to be sustainable and not go completely crazy. So we grabbed a brewhouse when the opportunity presented itself, we picked up larger fermenters and brites as we could, and have been piecing things together over the last two years.

What really drives us is the desire to own our own business, be our own boss, and do things our way and not the way someone else thinks it should be done. It's the desire to create. It's the hope to inspire others to follow their dream. Some people are just born with ambition and drive, and sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what to put all of that effort into, but we have found what makes us happy and gives us fulfillment and we are pursuing it with every ounce of our being. It hasn't been easy. And we still have a really long way to go. But we keep chasing the dream that we share and hoping other people find inspiration in it and support it.

Thanks for seeking out information about the brewery. How did you find out about us? Are you a homebrewer yourself? Are you considering opening a brewery?

P.S. Because I don't really know how to respond on this blog (it's probably quite simple) you might email me @ branden(at)blackshirtbrewingco(dot)com

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Long Road To Opening A Brewery

We are asked often, especially these days, when the brewery will be open. When we say that there are just too many variables to predict, people often give us a look that says "really?" Yes it's true that we have had the space since January, and yes it's true that we have the majority of our brewing equipment in our possession. But it's also true that we are 3 young adults, doing this on our own without the financial assistance of a bank or trust fund, and some things just take longer when you have to do them yourself.

A couple weekends ago, we decided we couldn't wait any longer and rented a concrete saw and jackhammer. Part of our purpose was to do experimental digging to find out what the existing plumbing looked like and where it went. The other part was to get started cutting trench drains and ditches for our future brewhouse, tasting room, bathrooms, and prep area. We had the amazing assistance of our good friends Kyle and Aaron who worked their asses off and asked nothing in return. We are forever thankful for their dedication and strong friendship.

The cutting and removal of the concrete went well. It was hard work, but we got great results. That is, until we ran into our next setback - our master plumber says the fiberglass grates that we had cut specifically for our purpose, and are therefore unreturnable, will not work. After all of our research and asking our GC a million questions, we didn't see this happening. But what do you do? Say fuck it, brush yourself off, and keep moving. It's just money. Lots and lots of money. But you know what? We aren't done yet. It's just another hurdle in a long line of hurdles that make for a long road to opening a brewery. Stay patient everyone, it's coming.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Artistry of Brewing

Sound is the transmission of vibrations and rythms...

Sight allows the identification of color, shape, and size...

Touch is the feeling of texture and temperature...

Smell consists of aromas that associate time and place...

And taste is the confirmation of what the other senses had already been triggering - the ah hah moment that, yes, this is truly fantastic!

Our Red Ale stimulates and rewards all five of the human senses, how many other art forms can claim that?

Monday, July 11, 2011

RiNo Art District Article

Here is a great article on some of the history, early pioneers, and current layout of the RiNo Art District.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thurs June 30th|Fermenters Arrive

When we first started assembling equipment and discussing how we could pull this brewery adventure off with the limited funds that we had, we knew a large part of our equipment would need to be purchased used and hopefully at a discount. Well, if you've spent any time on the Probrewer classifieds you know that used equipment gets snapped up quickly. If you aren't in the right place at the right time, with pockets full of cash, chances are you just don't have a chance at this equipment, especially if it is a good deal.

Early on, we realized that we would be buying brand new fermenters and so we sought out advice and recommendations. Of all the equipment manufacturers and dealers, we kept hearing great things about Premier Stainless, on both their quality and their price. We placed our order, people started working, and nearly 5 months later, here they are.

The night before they were due to show up, Chad and I got on youtube for some quick training. Oh yeah - neither of us had run a forklift before, and this was something we were definitely going to need to do. Surprisingly, operating a forklift takes all of ten seconds to understand and with a little common sense, can be done so safely by anyone who possesses even the most basic motor skills.

So the day of arrival, we rented a forklift from our neighbors who allowed us to drive it on the street to the brewery, saving us a $250 delivery fee. The tanks showed up right on time, maybe even early and we got to work. They were fastened to the truck trailer by someone who obviously has an engineering degree and who has done this a few times before. We broke them free from their vises and within 2 hours had the fermenters down safely and sitting in their new home. There were a few moments when 2000lbs of custom stainless steel was eight feet in the air that both Chad and I were holding our breath. Luckily, Chad is a now a forklift ninja and with the help of Carissa's boss Gregory, we were able to pull off one of the most monumental days so far for BSB. A huge sigh of relief for us all.

As I write this, the fermenters are quietly sitting inside the brewery, acclimating and adjusting to the place they will call home for some time. I can't tell you how exciting and anxious we were to get these tanks. Now, it's time to fill em!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Neighborhood...

3719 Walnut St, Denver, Co 80205

BSB calls Five Points or, more specifically, the RiNo Art District home. We are 15 blocks directly north of Coors Field in a mostly industrial area. At first glance, the unknowing passerby would consider our neighborhood an abandoned, sketchy, and useless part of town. However, upon further inspection, he or she would see that behind every closed and graffiti-covered garage door is a musician, a painter, a metalworker, or an artist of some form. The area calls for creativity, almost requires it, because the simple-minded just wouldn't see the beauty.

There is new life being breathed into the area because of its industrial charm and its low rent. This movement didn't start yesterday, nor has it happened overnight. In fact, our neighbors across the street moved into the area 12 years ago, long before it was hip and cool. The fact remains that the area is still dangerous, it is still rough. Just last week we had 2 windows shot out of our Dodge pickup that was sitting in a barbed-wire fence enclosed yard. Every night some other asshole tags our building in a continued struggle over territory.

Although there is a little grit here, we are still filled with intrigue and the desire to locate our little brewery here. We have met so many of the neighbors who have warmly welcomed us and have been genuinely excited to have more energy pumped into the once-abandoned area. We are continually inspired by the artistic movement surrounding us. We are excited to be in a position to help define a neighborhood, and we will take that priveledge and responsibility seriously. It is our plan to be a good neighbor, to help build the community, and to add to the diverse culture already here.

This past weekend, Danielle and I rode our bikes around and snapped photos to show others what our neighborhood looks and feels like. A few of these are below. For the whole set, check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackshirtbrewingco and click on the RiNo Art District set. Cheers!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Musicians or Brewers?

Is there a difference? It takes passion, conviction, direction, creativity, ability, and desire to write music and to brew beer. And the results of the effort? Something tangible for others to enjoy. Hopefully it inspires, hopefully it resonates deeply within them and strikes a chord. Maybe it will become the soundtrack to their day, maybe they'll rise up in protest, and maybe they'll simply tell their friends "check out this riff," or "can you believe that this is possible?" No matter the reaction, we do it because it's in our hearts. We have the need to create. We have the need to share our creation on some level. Each new song is a reflection of our lives. Each new album a collection of the best we can do at the time. It's a struggle. Creativity is like the weather - feast or famine. Sometimes it rains so much that it floods. And sometimes it is so dry that we begin to wonder if it'll ever rain again. But no matter the situation, whether our cup is empty or so full it runs over, we will continue to create music, to brew beer.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can A Book Change Your Life?

For the past few weeks, I have sat and watched my brother find himself totally immersed in old world beer, specifically beer brewed with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. He would get up early, even on his days off, so that he could brew a pot of coffee, watch the sun come up, and fall deeper and deeper in love. He was infatuated. He was giddy. He took so many pages of notes that I feel he may be re-writing the book. And this excitement and enthusiasm has flowed into other aspects of his life as well. I watched him take an early Saturday morning bike rode, solo; something I have never known him to do. He is brainstorming. He is scheming. Has it changed his life? Most certainly. Will this apply to BSB? Only the future will tell. I would suggest staying tuned. I would also suggest picking up a book. You just never know what it might awaken inside you!

- Branden

Happy Spring!

Westcliffe, CO. Wet Mountain Valley. Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday March 13th|Moving Day

Our house has been a catch-all for brewing equipment over the past few years. It started innocently enough, with a few corney kegs and a CO2 bottle. Then the Brew Magic showed up one snowy day, followed by some beautiful stainless fermenters. And then things just got weird! We acquired a 4bbl brewhouse from California but had no where to store it. So, the garage got filled to the gills and the boil kettle sat outside for many, many months. We had plans to move the equipment into our warehouse, but we needed to wait until our sublease was finished. Ah, March, finally. Three days after getting a warning from the City of Centennial to move the kettle or be fined, we rented a trailer, posted a facebook message asking for help, and got to moving.

Thankfully, we had several great friends show up to help us. They all discarded their beautiful Sunday to help friends in need, and their efforts will not be forgotten. After some delicious breakfast burritos and coffee, we loaded the boil kettle, mash tun, grist case, Brew Magic, 6 conical fermenters, bottle filler, mill, corney kegs, buckets, hoses, etc. into the trailer, the Chevy, the Dodge, the Ford, and our friend's Ranger and off we went. We made quite the caravan and people were breaking their necks wondering what the f*ck was all that stuff?!

After several hours of lifting, shuffling, rearranging, and a near-death walk-in cooler move, we finally cracked some beers, enjoyed the sun, and listened to some tunes. When it was suggested that we move the party to the roof, no one hesitated. I will say that this group of people sure as hell knows how to have a good time. A big thanks to everyone who helped us out! Your efforts were needed and we are so grateful to have you as friends!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The latest book to really rock my world has been Yeast The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation. It was written by two very well-known and respected guys in the beer world -Chris White of White Labs and Jamil Zainasheff who is a badass homebrewer, author, and owner of soon-to-open Heretic Brewing Co. This book confirmed a lot of things we had suspected in our beer, as well as opened our eyes to some incredible techniques for making better beer. Implementations are being made, equipment being considered and ordered. In our quest to make the best beer imaginable, this book will prove to be a valuable tool. For all you homebrewers or professional brewers looking to take your beer to the next level, get it. Now.

A few of the latest tasty beverages to be consumed around Rancho Relaxo in the name of "research." There are so many incredible breweries around the state, the country, and the globe. We are proud to be a part of such a wonderfully skilled and diverse industry.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The space has been drawn, engineered (very basically), and more and more equipment is being ordered and received every day. We just placed an order through Premier Stainless for some beautiful, new 15bbl brites and fermenters, mill, pump, and heat exchanger. We are gearing up for construction which we have scaled back considerably, choosing to concentrate on the brewery and getting up and running; and figuring that we can always do the tap room buildout at a later date. For now, the best use of our limited money is to concentrate on what matters most - the beer. Everything else will fall into place down the road. And, the weather has finally climbed out of the frigid cold that we have been battling for the past several weeks - here's to warm thoughts! Happy Valentine's Weekend!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

First Event @ Our New Home!

This past Monday evening we played host to our friends who run Noble Swine Supper Club and 32 wonderful, happy people. It was the first event to be held in our space since taking it over 17 days earlier. When Liz and Andrew of Noble Swine approached us a week earlier about using the space, we said sure, but realize this is a raw warehouse without much in the way of comfort. Well, as everyone would confirm, it takes just a little creativity and vision to create much from nothing! A big thanks to everyone who came out and made it a joyous and wonderful evening!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Having A Little Fun

I just got a hold of some new photo editing software and have been enjoying the creative process again. Here is a new one for the blog: