Every brewery has a story that led to where they are, but this has to be one of the most interesting. Brothers Branden and Chad relocated from Pueblo to Denver wanting to change careers and their ideas ranged from opening a bar to starting a winery on the Western Slope. They soon discovered that they had a passion for beer and began home brewing which led to the new desire to open a microbrewery. While Chad was on his honeymoon with wife Carissa, they purchased a brew house system and shipped it back to Denver. On October 13, 2012 they opened their doors to the public only to close three nights later because they ran out of beer. Now, just under a year later they are regularly open serving their beers to the masses and one other unique thing about this brewery: they only serve red ales. Of course this is Black Shirt Brewing.
After finding an old 4,000 square foot building in the River North area off 38th and Walnut, two years were spent fixing it from top to bottom. The two year transformation changed this warehouse into a music themed microbrewery. With tables around the tap room and a concrete bar top this is a small tasting room with a small fridge for to go growlers, and a garage door to let natural light in. Above the bar hangs an enlarged amplifier that displays their tap list, or set list as they refer to it. Separated from the guests but still visible, is all the brewing equipment used with lights hanging from the ceiling to keep the area illuminated. But this place is very serious about their beer, and with them all being reds in various styles the differences between them are all very interesting, but very delicious.
With all the beers having similarities in their flavor profile, the beer to start with first has to be the BSB Red Ale, the flagship ale at this brewery. This is a very balanced beer with a medium body that has primary flavor notes of toffee, and caramel. This beer has a subtle brightness brought out by a hint of citrus and a floral aftertaste. This is a very well rounded beer with some of the same flavor profiles having a presence in all their beers. They change the yeast strain, hop additions and all the beers here, while same in color are all different in flavor. For the fans of hops, there is the Pale Red Rye and the Red IPA. The Pale Red Rye enhances the bright citrus flavor and has a heavy hop aroma, but the bitterness of this beer is not as present in the taste and is once again balanced. Add a subtle hint of spice from the rye and this is a complex beer. The Red IPA does have a big hop aroma and flavor that is strong on the citrus note. In addition there is a subtle pine flavor that creates a fairly bitter beer. It does finish fairly clean making it very enjoyable.
If hops aren’t your favorite flavor profile then Belgian inspired red ales are also available in a Red Saison, and a Sour Mash Red Saison. The saison is not as light and acidic as a traditional version but it is still acidic and full of great spice notes reminiscent to the style. Throughout this beer, spices like coriander and clove are present along with the caramel and toffee notes already in this beer. The acidity helps to cut through the spices, and the dry finish makes this a very enjoyable beer any day. The Sour Mash Red Saison is just as acidic, has the same spices, and a subtle hint of sour notes. The sour addition adds a hint of apple that compliments the caramel and toffee very well. An extremely unique beer that is bright, sweet, complex, but very enjoyable. Also available are rotating beers which have included a Red Porter, and most recently a red ESB.
As if making only red ales isn’t unique enough the story behind how Black Shirt Brewing opened is just as unique as the beers they pour. A fourteen year journey that has had a lot of bumps along the way that finally culminated with unique ales, a friendly staff, and a great tap room environment. All this off the beaten path from the popular LoDo beer scene, and in the up and coming River North area where guests still come to in masses to try what is on tap. So when in Denver go off the beaten path, grab a seat at Black Shirt and some unique red ales out of some of the most unique glassware in multiple styles.
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