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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Red Evelyn #2014 - Thoughts & Reflections...

Hello friends, it's been 4 months since the last blog post. The speed at which the brewery wheel is spinning these days is dizzying. It's electric. I'm truly afraid of loosening my grip, for fear of falling right off. It's been a wild ride! It seems to only be speeding up. There is no real slow down, just a rare moment to catch your breath, put more band-aids on, dust off your hat, stare quickly at a beautiful sunrise, and then start running again. This is one of those rare moments and I wanted to share some thoughts about a very special beer - Red Evelyn!

As you may or may not know, we make one batch of Imperial Red Rye IPA per year and we call it Red Evelyn. This beer is our attempt to give thanks and honor our Grandma Evie. She was a spectacular lady - so full of energy, life, and love, and she left a big wake in her path even though she had such a tiny little frame. She practically raised Chad and instilled in both of us a hard work ethic, an ear for good music, a love of the mountains and outdoors, a respect and appreciation for family, and a sense of leadership that definitely drives Black Shirt. Grandma Evie was the family matriarch, and we've never quite rebounded from losing her. This beer helps reconnect us with her spirit and in some way, I suppose, immortalizes her.

Red Evelyn has a reputation of being a hard beer to brew. In its early incarnations, it was a 10 gallon batch of beer that we brewed on our old home brew setup. Initially, we had no idea how much grain we could fit into the mash tun of this little system. I wrote the recipe, made some assumptions, and we set out to brew it. As we'd soon find out - Grandma's spirit was still alive, things got wonky quickly, and the batch was an absolute disaster that we had to abort and reattempt. This has been, give or take, the story every time we've brewed this beer (equipment failures, stuck mashes, stuck fermentations, you name it). The ornery side of her seems to shine on Red Evelyn brew days!

This year's batch was the biggest yet - we did a double-batch brew day on our 15-bbl system and we were able to make about 600 gallons of finished beer after all of the trub, dry-hop, and racking loss. This year's batch was also unique in that we had the entire team chip in and help out with the brew. Traditionally, I don't let anyone inside the brewery other than my assistant brewer on brew days - especially double-batch days as they are a delicate dance and require a large amount of coordination, timing, focus, and hard work. However, this beer is unique and I wanted the team to have a hand in it, to have it be a learning lesson, for them to have a deeper appreciation for the beer, and for everyone to know exactly what, how, and why we brew this beer and why it's so special.

For the geeks looking for specifics - we incorporated 2,500 lbs of malted barley and rye, 72 lbs of hops in the boil (first wort as well as bittering, flavor, aroma, whirlpool), 49 lbs of hops for dry-hopping, 110 lbs of Belgian candi syrup, 110 lbs of Colorado wildflower honey from the oldest honey producer in the state (Beeyond The Hive), a good bit of fresh, filtered Colorado water, and billions and billions of yeast cells to make this beer. You read that right - 121 lbs of hops - that's over 6 lbs of hops per barrel! The batch came in at 9.32% abv & 93 ibus, yet is so beautifully layered and textured that it makes the beer incredibly easy to drink. 

We decided to release this beer in two formats this year - in-house draft and 2,000 custom decorated 22-oz bombers (that's right - it's her signature on the bottle). This was no small undertaking for us as we are still a boot-strapping brewery that scratches for every penny we spend. As we gathered ingredients and paid for the bottles up front (way before brew day so that the bottles would be here when we needed them) - I realized we had spent over $17,000 on this batch alone. That's a little intimidating, especially when considering Red Evelyn's reputation as being a hard/semi-impossible beer to brew! This doesn't include other associated costs - lots of labor, overhead, tons of time and energy on design work, recipe formulation, cellar work, etc. Of note - we decided to bottle 2,000 bombers of this beer knowing that the only possible way for us to pull this off was to bottle each and every damn one of them by hand, on a single-head filler, day in and day out. It took Aaron and I eight days to fill all of these bottles. A labor of love doesn't fully explain it - you have to mix in some naivety, stupidity, and a penchant for seeing things through! Needless to say, there was a celebration at the completion of bottling. Hell, we are still celebrating each time we get the chance to sit down, open, and enjoy a bottle!

Tasting Notes:

The nuances in this beer are memories of our grandmother, our rock. Notes of caramel and toffee, rye, Colorado wildflowers, foxtail pine, grapefruit, as well as other bright and vibrant citrus tones make this Imperial Red Rye IPA just like Evie - unmatched! It's incredibly elegant, layered, and complex, and is a beer worth sipping and savoring!

Inspired By:

Evelyn Ann Miller 8-16-1914 to 2-20-2003. This beer is brewed once a year to honor and celebrate the life of Grandma Evie. She was one of the best we've ever known, same for this beer!


The release party for Red Evelyn 2014 took place Sat, Aug 16th (Grandma Evie's 100th birthday). We had gotten the word out to all of the local press, sent emails to our Red Ale[rt] subscribers, and had been talking quite a bit about it - so we thought we'd have a good crowd. We had the entire staff working that day - and we felt like no matter what happened we could handle it. We had every station covered, backed up, etc. As the doors opened, and people rushed in, it quickly became apparent this was gonna be one for the record books!

We had decided a couple of weeks prior that Aaron and I would live bottle some of the bombers right off the tank for our SBS members (don't ask). The idea is that this beer will never be any better than it is right out of the tank - fresh, aromatic, and with all of its hop glory shining. For those ultra-geeks, you'll never have an opportunity like this again. To actually see the beer coming out of the tank and into the bottle that you'll have your hands on 60 seconds later is a rare treat. We sold several cases of beer this way, not as much as predicted but that was probably a blessing in disguise.

In addition to the beer on tap and in bombers, we had a 2 great food trucks, and 3 different bands that played our beer garden. Satay by Jorge and Mestizos threw down some delicious food and, by the end, both sold out. Mestizos had even created a custom menu that paired really well with the beer! Our old buddy R.L. Cole was the first performer to play the beer garden and, in true Robert Louis Cole fashion, brought that mean voice and fantastic storytelling to the crowd! Second up was a new friend of ours - Joel Van Horne from the Denver band Covenhoven. Joel is a bit softer and more hopeful a singer, singing mostly about memories of a family cabin in the woods - Grandma would have truly loved him! Last was Denver band Strange Americans who are big fans of the brewery and would soon become great friends and a band we look forward to hearing much more from. With our brand new PA system, a makeshift stage made out of the plastic pallets that our cans come from the factory on, and some fantastic singers and songwriters - the music couldn't have been better.

All in all, the day went smoothly and a lot of fun was had by the staff as well as our guests. Due to our focus on quality service and a fair amount of experience of handling large, thirsty crowds, no one had to wait for a beer or want for anything for that matter. We had a full house from about 10 minutes after the doors opened until closing time - truly an honor and something that we'll look back on with a smile for quite a while! Cheers to everyone who came out and celebrated the day with us!


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