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.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Denver Post - BSB - Inspired/Rebellious

The Denver Post - BSB - Inspired/Rebellious

Cut and pasted directly from the article -

"I first tried Branden Miller's Beet Saison at a wedding I catered a few months ago. The wedding was a relentlessly locavore affair, held at a small farm, the reception in a converted barn, the tables decorated with curled strands of burlap.
And the Beet Saison, a red-ale beer that Miller produced at hisBlack Shirt Brewing Co.in North Denver, glowed garnet and was served, appropriately enough, in mason jars.
Infused with roasted beets from a local farm, it had sweet root notes in the nose and the full range of beet flavors: earthiness, sugar, even the tannic aftertaste you get from the leaves. Drinking it on a day with just a hint of fall was a like a brief flirtation with a beautiful girl at a wedding. I was smitten.
Miller's brewery,which he operates with his brother and his sister-in-law, is on the outer edges of the loft and warehouse district north of Coors Field. The space used to be the Johnson and Lord Furniture Store — the old sign is semi-visible above the entrance — as well as a disco and, before that, a brothel.
The door handles are made of plumber's pipe. The table uprights in the tasting room are fashioned from boxcar flooring. And a turntable sits on a corner of the bar, with the LP cover ofRage Against The Machine's "The Battle of Los Angeles"leaning against it — music for enlightened rebels.
Black Shirt Brewery is what is known as a craft brewery (the term microbrewery was discarded, by industry-wide consent, in 2002) but Miller, who is welterweight-slender with long curly hair and a thick beard, isn't your traditional craftsman.
Traditional craftsmen are gruff, contrary and suspicious of glibness. Owing their origin tothe guild system started in the Middle Ages,they value secrecy, anonymity and reverence for tradition.
Miller is smoothly articulate and speaks in digestible sound bites. His brewery has already been the subject of a program on the Discovery channel, and is profiled in the forthcoming documentary, "Crafting a Nation."
"For a new craft brewery to stand out, it has to tell a story and convey its authenticity," said Marty Jones, who describes himself as an "educator and evangelist" and does marketing
Black Shirt Brewing Company, which creates craft beers, was started by brothers Chad Miller, left, and Branden Miller, right, and Chad's wife Carissa Miller. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
and public relations for Denver's Wynkoop Brewery.
The story Miller tells begins with the name. BSB references the shirts Miller and his brother liked to wear growing up. The color scheme — black and white logo, red beer — is inspired by Miller's favorite bands— the White Stripes,the Strokes.Even the way he thinks about beer, he says, can be traced to music. The brewery produces a standard product line: a basic red ale, a red saison, a pale red, an imperial red rye IPA. Think of those as studio cuts.
And then it produces smaller, experimental batches — one-off's that are closer to live cuts or B sides. Like most craft breweries, Black Shirt has two sets of tanks, visible from the tasting room: ceiling-high brewing, fermentation and conditioning tanks and a smaller 10-gallon set used for test batches.
Miller, a product of the YouTube age, doesn't believe in hoarding technical info. When a forklift operator who was supposed to lift one of his fermentation tanks into place no-showed, Miller went on YouTube and taught himself how to operate the vehicle.
"We aim to be the most transparent brewery ever," he says. That means copiously detailed social-media updates about brewing techniques (Miller tweets @brandenjmiller). "We want people to be able to totally geek out on the beer."
One day I bring Wynkoop's Jones into the brewery for a tasting.
Jones, an amateur musician, admires the turntable and raises his eyebrows at the menu board fashioned to look like a Marshall amp. Miller sets out his four standard beers, served in locally designed glassware with a tilted opening that drives the aromatics into the nose.
Jones holds the beers up to the light and sticks his nose into the glass. Why, I ask him, is the first taste of beer always the best?
"Well, the first flash flavor can be the most exciting," he admits, "but there is the alcohol factor to keep you drinking."
Jones has a number of polite and respectful things to say about the beers. He admires the "lacing" left on the sides of a glass, the foamy residue of a well-made brew.
We talk about the American approach to craft beer: Miller has no interest in what he calls the "predictable" German style of beer making, in which every nuance of the beverage is tradition-bound and highly calculated.
"We Americans take a time-tested formula, bastardize it, turn it up to 11, ignore all the rules, then claim it as our own — which, in a way, it is," Jones says.
Miller brings out a fifth beer. It is, of course, the Beet Saison.
Jones sits back in his chair. "Wow," he says. "the color's gorgeous. The head — look at it, it's like pudding." He sniffs it.
"The nose alone is worth the price of admission." He sips it. "This is the beauty of breweries like this. I don't know if anyone has ever made a beer like this, and I don't care."
Miller, who has been lurking in the back during the tasting, comes out. He and Jones engage in easy and mutually respectful shop talk.
To open the brewery, Miller has taken out a second mortgage and a variety of loans, maxed out his credit cards, even sold his car. Why, I think, does he take all the risk? He has spoken of giving frequent Twitter updates about what he's listening to while making beer. "It's like your favorite band. You want to know everything they did to come up with that tune," he says.
It occurs to me that Branden takes the risk he does not just because he loves beer, but because he thinks of himself as an artist. This, perhaps, is the mindset of the new craftsman. The traditional craftsman was content to create a product.
The new craftsman appropriates the artist's prerogative: to create not just a product, but a world around it."
John Broening is a chef at Spuntino, Olivea and Duo in Denver. johnbroening@msn.com
Black shirt brewing co.
3719 Walnut St. Open by appointment and most Saturdays; check Facebook page for updates. Regular hours two days a week are coming in January. 303-993-2799; blackshirtbrewingco.com

Read more:One beer's story: Denver brewery approach is inspired, rebellious - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/athome/ci_22148809/one-beers-story-denver-brewery-approach-is-inspired#ixzz2EfaVZ3dv
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Fall Harvest Saison

This is the time of the year for pumpkin beer, or at least it should be. It seems these days that pumpkin beers are rolling out earlier and earlier and fewer and fewer are made with a true gourd. A quick search of Probrewer showed me that many professional brewers don’t use roasted pumpkin in the mash or even pumpkin puree in their boil, instead opting for traditional baking spices to mimic the flavor of pumpkin pie and deceive the consumer. To see this approach was very uninspiring and so I was determined to do something more authentic. I will admit, I don’t like most pumpkin beers and now I know why. Brewers are cheating it, taking the easy route, and getting by with very mediocre versions of what can be an excellent beer style. At BSB, we would take a different approach.

I called Andrew Voss, our Arvada hop grower and supplier of much more than hops, to see if I could get my hands on a couple of the heirloom squash he had grown this year. They are called Red Hubbard Squash, more specifically, Boston Morrow. From what I gather, this squash all but disappeared a decade ago but has been saved by a few seed savers and is now beginning to show up across the country. It is a large squash – the two we used were nearly 25lbs each. They are a very odd-looking squash as well. Like a crook-neck squash/pumpkin hybrid with the surface of Mars as skin. The flavor is somewhere between a butternut squash and a pumpkin – slightly sweet but also meaty and savory. Andrew harvested two of these squash and delivered them to the brewery. A plan was developed.

In order to enhance the flavor of these squash, we decided that we would roast and smoke them. The idea was that we would caramelize the flesh and bring out its sweetness, and then add a very subtle smokiness by smoking over cherry wood. We would mash the squash and then pull the pieces out of the mash and puree them, and add that to the boil. This was all an attempt to make sure the flavor of the squash came through in the finished beer.
As brew day neared, we decided this beer would be our Fall Harvest Saison. We have talked about it around the brewery for a while and we love the idea of having a seasonally-driven Saison on tap at all times. In addition to our “standard” red Saison, we are attempting to use a vegetable, fruit, or spice that is indicative of the current season and incorporating that into a special, one-off Saison. The first edition of this idea was a Red Beet Saison we made back in the start of the summer. That beer would go on to become legendary, and change a lot of people’s minds about what a beer could be made from and what it could look and taste like. It quickly became many people’s favorite beer – not just at BSB but in the world! No joke – this thing was a game-changer. So keeping with the idea, this fall version would serve as an example of just how good a squash beer could be.

I cut up the squash the night before brew day, seasoned it with brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon, and roasted it in the oven for 45 minutes. The morning of brew day, we fired up the HLT and the electric smoker and very lightly smoked the squash, seeds and all, for 25 minutes. This beer was made with the same grist composition as our standard Red Saison, and we mashed the smoked squash with the grains for 45 minutes. After recirculation and lautering, we pulled the pieces of squash out of the mash tun and quickly pureed them so that we could put them into the boil using a double strainer to keep the entire pulpy mess from falling to the bottom and scorching. Post boil – we chilled and transferred the wort to a fermenter and repeated the brew again. We brewed the two batches back to back, the same way, and fermented them together with our Saison yeast.

Post-fermentation, the squash flavor was still a little light, so I roasted a bit more squash and put it in the freezer over night. In the morning, the squash was placed into a clean fermenter and the beer was racked onto it, sort of “dry-hopping” with extra squash. We also made a trip to Savory Spice Shop and talked baking spices with the crew there. After smelling, contemplating, scheming, etc, we ended up with a fairly standard, although extremely high-quality, set of spices for this beer – Saigon Cinnamon, Jamaican Allspice, and Madagascar Clove. These were all placed in the secondary as well and allowed to sit for 3 days before we kegged the beer. Then we carbed the beer and allowed for further cold-conditioning of 2 weeks. Starting this weekend, and lasting only as long as 10 gallons will last, it will be on tap at the tasting room!

Tasting Notes

The beer is absolutely wonderful – the color is a brilliant copper red with a nice light tan head that pours ½ inch thick and dissipates nice and slow. The first smell is dominated by baking spices – predominately the Saigon Cinnamon though allspice and clove come in right after. It smells wonderfully of fresh-baked pie and invokes feelings for the holidays right away. On the palate, these spices are the initial flavor as well. As the beer warms and the palate adjusts, these spices fall away and the Saison yeast begins to show through, with its earthiness, funk, and black pepper spice. The squash shows up in the mouthfeel, adding a little weight and complexity to an otherwise crisp and clean-flavored beer. The beer becomes something else as it warms, almost showing two entirely different sides, and it makes for a great ride! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Brewhouse

This is the backbone of the brewery - the workhorse! It is a 4-barrel steam-fired brewhouse that Chad and Carissa found in CA on their honeymoon. They bought it, shipped it back to CO, and we spent the next two years refurnishing it and making it work like new again. It can make 125 gallons of wort at a time - tiny in scale when compared to most breweries but perfect for BSB. We have been brewing like crazy so we will be pouring delicious reds here again soon!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This video was shot over the course of a year, while we struggled to build-out the brewery. Our great friends @ AVAVISION MEDIA were there helping/recording the whole time. The biggest heartfelt thanks goes out to them for creating such a masterpiece! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Great Music Inspires Great Beer! Enjoy!

"To The Grain," and the hops, and the yeast, and the water. Great music inspires great beer! Enjoy!

And now, back to more brewing! See you soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Few Weeks In...

...and learning lots!

So we finally opened our doors to a very patient and enthusiastic crowd over the past 5 weeks and have gotten really great reviews for our beer. We are, of course, very proud and very confident in the recipes and our execution of them, but to get the type of response that we have from not only our friends and family, but from beer enthusiasts, beer snobs, the press, and from other breweries, is a feeling beyond ecstatic! We all are so happy that our little dream, and all of our hard work, is finally being shared and embraced! 

A side effect of being embraced so well, is that we poured all of the beer we brewed in 3.5 months in 3 nights! Our Grand Opening alone we poured 17 kegs of beer. That is a LOT of beer for a brewery our size. Our pilot system, which has been used exclusively to brew all of the beer up until now, is a 10 gallon Brew Magic and 20 gallon fermenters. Over the past 4.5 months, the fermenters have never been empty. As soon as the beer would finish fermentation, we would crash, keg, and brew two more batches to fill the fermenter back up. We have realized, and knew this before, that a 10 gallon pilot system will never allow us to keep up with the thirst of the community. We are working on that!

Unfortunately, up until now, we haven't been able to brew on our larger scale production brewery due to one mechanical issue or another. Steam was a much bigger and more expensive endeavor than we could ever have imagined, and then glycol turned out to be our biggest nightmare to date. With the production system, we will be brewing 4 barrels of beer (124 gallons) per batch and then quad-batching to fill our 15 barrel fermenters (nearly 500 gallons). Once operational, this system will allow us to brew much more beer and allow us to open the tap room with much greater frequency. Just this past weekend, we fired up the kettle and brewed our Inaugural 4-barrel batch. Much went wrong, much was learned. Much of what we know was confirmed and then much of what we didn't know was revealed. We had to take a few days afterwards in order to lick our wounds and begin to contemplate using it again. This is a feeling we know all too well. When we first started brewing on our pilot system years ago, everything that could go wrong did. We burned ourselves, and we messed up batches of beer. We had moments where we thought we could never do this again. But, just like we have done before, we are applying the things we have learned, we are healing our wounds and feeling more confident, and we are readying to do it again! After all, it's not rocket science and it's not brain surgery, it's brewing. It's an age-old science and an artist's playground. Sure we might toss a few batches down the drains, but we are also going to find our footing and brew the best damn Red Ale that the world has ever known! And enough of it to keep our patient and enthusiastic crowd at bay! 

Cheers everyone, see you soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Been A While

We have been too busy to write. Or to think. Or to breathe! Luckily, instinct has taken over and we are almost ready to open the brewery! A few pics to get you updated:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2 Months Go By Like 2 Minutes!

Again, I haven't documented any of the progress over the last 2 months and there have been so many incredible moments of triumph! I will spend the next week or so just posting short bits and pictures to get this blog caught back up. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from our good friend Devin Sena as we relaxed after pouring concrete inside the brewery!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TTB Federal Brewer's Notice Approval...

Damn! The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau) got fast! We had heard that with the current renaissance, or full-on gold rush, of new breweries applying for their federal license that it could take months to receive the notice. Scratch that - online submission = 5 week turnaround! Now we just have to get our State Manufacturer's License (which has been applied for and the state is reviewing it), along with a hundred and ten thousand tasks around the brewery completed, and we might yet open this little brewery! Woohoo!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Latest Tasting Room Addition...

For some time now, we have been searching for barn wood for the tasting room. Old, authentic, rustic barn wood to create a warm, inviting space with some modern/industrial accents. We looked at craigslist, we scoured RiNo, and pursued several other leads that didn't pan out. We knew that Lynn and Vicky Holstad (Carissa's wonderful parents) had quite a bit of barn wood that they had been saving for a project at their home in Westcliffe. This wood had been salvaged from several sites around the valley and held pretty significant sentimental value to Vicky and Lynn. Recently, we heard that the project may not happen and that this pile of barn wood may be available to us. Aaron had been pushing Lynn to allow us to use the wood at BSB, and recently Lynn finally said ok. 

Wasting no time, Aaron lined up a trailer from his friend Dave Duffy and he and Chad made the journey to Westcliffe to pick it all up. They left at 5:00 am and drove straight into a snow and rain storm. Because of the bitter cold, the windshield was icing up and neither of them could see the road very well. Chad was bent forward driving 70 miles an hour, hauling ass to make the round trip in a day, seeing the lines in the road through a 2 inch square that hadn't frozen. When they hit Hard Scrabble, the storm lifted and the sky cleared, revealing a beautiful blue sky and snow-frosted pine trees. They made it safely to Westcliffe and in a matter of hours, grabbed every single piece of barn wood that Lynn and Vicky would let them take. They loaded the trailer, strapped it down, and hauled ass back to Denver to get the wood inside the brewery. We can't thank Lynn and Vicky Holstad enough for the beautiful wood and we look so forward to seeing the space come together as we have envisioned in our heads. It's gonna be an incredible space to drink Red Ale, listen to great music, and enjoy the company of great friends. Thank you so much guys! We love you!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Late 2011, Early 2012

WOW! Has it really been two months since the last update? How time flies sometimes, huh? To say the last two months has been magical and spectacular would be a huge understatement.First, our family has grown quite tremendously in the past few months. Our little sister and her man welcomed their daughter into the world in late November, and she is an absolute angel sent from the heavens. Seeing our little sister so happy and watching her transition into a momma has been surreal, heartwarming, and completely overwhelming. She has the delicate touch and the firm grip that it takes to be a great mother, and it so exciting and inspiring to watch! Couple that with the most patient, understanding, and intelligent father and our little niece has quite the pair of parents to teach and guide her into the world. I am sure that her sweetness and love will repay them many, many times in the coming years!

Fast forward to one of the biggest blizzards to hit Denver in some time, Thursday, Feb 2nd, and another brilliant light shined down on us all. Chad and Carissa welcomed their first son into the world in the middle of the snow and wind and craziness (safe and warm in a hospital, just to clarify). Their son, my nephew, is nothing short of a phenom in his first week of life. He is so unbelievably ambitious and anxious to show the world that he has great things in store for it. To make the connection between his personality and that of his parents is way too easy and obvious. He truly is a reflection in all the best ways! And to see the transition that Carissa and Chad have made in literally hours is so ridiculously awesome! What amazing parents. 

The brewery you ask? What's going on with the brewery? Well, the plumbing is in and waiting for inspection. The entryway was torn down as we finally realized that our attempts to salvage it just weren't going to be enough. In hindsight, that room should have come down a long time ago. We salvaged all of the 2x4s from the room and will use them to frame in the bar and possibly some other cool projects that are in the works. Reduce, reuse, recycle! We have one of our old comrades back in our good graces, as Voss Family Farms has agreed to allow BSB to use his hops almost exclusively this year. We met Andrew years ago through a connection I made at the restaurant and we used his dried and also wet hops. The wet hops didn't work as well as I would have wanted back then, but it was only because I didn't know how to utilize them at the time. Anyway, after a short hiatus, his beautiful hops will again grace our kettle and dry hop bags! Look out! After firing our old architect and hiring a new one that we found through our friend Scott Witsoe at Wit's End Brewing, we were finally able to kick the city's ass in to shape and get them on board with our project. What a great ally and pusher we found in Ryan Holtmann of Design Studio Architects. In addition, we have been building the steam boiler that will fire our boil kettle; we have purchased garage doors for the front of the building that will change it's appearance dramatically; we are working on a new front door that will bring the whole project together; we have been filming with Free Mind Productions on their follow up film to Beer Culture; we have submitted our application to the TTB for their review; we have also submitted our Manufacturer's License application to the State for their review. TONS and TONS and TONS! I am out of breath just thinking about it! 

This is an exciting time for all of us. We have found such amazing beauty in so many ways. We fill accomplishment, amazement, and excitement like never before. We have laughed and we have definitely cried. We hope for more of the same as we continue to push to make our dream a reality. We hope your heart is warm and that the new year is bringing you all the best of things too! 

Cheers, Chad, Branden, and Carissa