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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 - A Look Back...

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

As we started 2014 we were beginning a new and very exciting chapter for our small brewery. We were about to embark on a grand voyage - though no one could have prepared us for the highs and the lows this year would bring. We would face a lot of hurtles, have to overcome the fear, anxiety, and unknowns within ourselves, and fight through a lot of moments where we thought we just couldn't do it. We also had the opportunity to share a few beers in celebration after overcoming these obstacles and to realize the reward is well worth the risk. 

There is no better reward after a 14 hour double-batch brew day than a glass of your prior creation!

Our new 15-barrel brewhouse and (6) 30-bbl fermenters were installed in late October, 2013 and we had been in the process of scaling up our existing recipes as well as brewing some new one-offs. With very little trial-and-error we were producing beers that matched the flavor profile that I was after and we were learning quite quickly how to use our new toys. We even got our auger system installed which took milling grains and mashing in from a vigorous 3 man job, to a cushy 1-man operation complete with the ability to sip a little coffee as grain marched its way from the grist case to the mash tun via the push of a button! 

In addition, the year started off with a different crazy bang as we received, installed, and began to use our Wild Goose canning line on Jan 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. This was a game changer for us as nearly 85% of the beer we brewed in 2013 was consumed within the 4 walls of our brewery. The canning line would change that and allow us to increase our footprint, make a bigger impact in the community, and allow more people the chance to taste The Red Ale Project. I can't say that packaging has been easy. It was a surprise and a big challenge. Fuck, it's been a royal pain in the ass at times. Especially to begin with. We had no prior experience with packaging beer other than a single-head bottle filler that we had used to fill our growlers. As far as fast-paced packaging, we had done a lot of homework but that didn't prepare us for the challenges we'd face and the amount of delicious beer that would end up in the floor drains as opposed to the cans. However, like we always do, we persevered and things got simpler, made more sense, and we eventually figured it out. 

IRA cans entering the canning line.

Not exactly my happy face.

That moment when shit just isn't going right.

Chad's "I don't like what the fuck is happening" face.

Bin full of low-fill, unsellable cans.

Aaron's look of deep concentration and determination

Finally, something to be proud of.

The staff at Black Shirt has gone through a pretty big change through the year. Unfortunately, we lost our hard-working assistant brewer Adam to homesickness and the need to be around family. Fortunately, we have filled that role with Aaron, my brother-in-law, who helped build Black Shirt and who is so eager to learn, so willing to work hard, and so committed to the brewery. Our all-around guy Ian moved on to pursue his goal of working for the Forest Service, and he still checks in quite often. We've also hired an assistant cellarman and packaging tech in Steve, who we hope to see grow into a bigger role in 2015. On the sales and distribution side of the business, we hired Juan who is doing a fantastic job keeping our accounts happy and shelves stocked (so long as we can supply him with enough beer). We've promoted bartender Cassie to our tap room manager and she is kicking ass in that department. Additionally, we hired Mary who not only takes care of guests in the tap room, but also books all of the live music for the brewery, assists with private parties, and so much more. Gwyn is our ray of sunshine and she has not only poured each and every one of you a beer, she's also made you laugh, made you smile, and played some wonderfully hopeful acoustic music in the tap room for us all to enjoy. We're hoping for more of that in 2015. Also, Megan, our spunky little dog-loving server has been such a sweet and incrediby laser-sharp addition to our team. She has spearheaded a new project for Black Shirt in 2015, so be on the lookout for that in the next few days. 

What started out as a handful of people brewing, packaging, and serving all the beer, quickly turned into 12 full-time employees complete with a dedicated service staff, distribution arm, packaging crew, music coordinator, tap room manager, and more. Albeit, we still all wear multiple hats, but it's crazy to see our little brewery accelerate at such a fast pace. 

Along the way we went from a handful of liquor stores carrying our beer to twenty, three dozen, and then almost 80. At the same time, we went from only a couple of tap houses having Black Shirt on tap to nearly 25 of the best restaurants and beer-centric bars keeping our beer on tap as well as in cans. We've made some unique partnerships and have seen Black Shirt named in local blogs, the city paper, and even The New York Times! We've won, and lost, and won, and lost space on liquor store shelves and in coolers. It's been a year of learning, of growth, of calculation, and of getting our asses kicked at times. 

Some things we are looking forward to in 2015 include 3 new fermenters (1-7bbl and 2-30bbls), a QA and QC lab complete with dedicated lab tech (our dear friend Cat), more exciting and meaningful collaborations, lots of new and exciting beers, the return of our beer garden in the spring and a new, improved stage, a summer full of live music, and much, much more. 

We are coming out tired, excited, in disbelief, and in hopeful anxiety for 2015. To think that we've had our feverishly devout fans like you along for the ride, in the happy and the sad times, is incredibly powerful. We don't do what we do to make money or build an empire. We create unique and flavorful beers to share with people we enjoy and look up to. We love to share stories with you and we love to hear what you've been up to. We can't say enough thanks for allowing us this opportunity. We'll keep doing what we do, and we hope to see you in the tap room!

Here are some moments that stand out from 2014: