Brewmaster Don Chapman on how his fairy tale-inspired brews have a few dark twists of their own.
Once upon a time in Loveland, Colo., two friends dreamed of enchanting the world with traditional German ales and lagers. Emboldened by a collection of rare homebrew recipes, the duo set forth on a fated path that would lead them to opening Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, an unusual outpost for storied German beers in a land overrun by hops. Since 2010, the steadfast team’s unveiled bewitched spins on everything from hefeweizens to Old World styles nearly lost.
“We get people coming in asking for IPAs now and again, but our hoppiest beer is our altbier,” laughs brewmaster Don Chapman, who started the fairy tale brewery with co-founder Aaron Heaton way back in 2008—or, as legend dictates, the two took the advice of Chapman’s wife, who suggested pairing classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales with their German beers.
But much like the dark, often risqué themes Chapman discovered when he read undoctored versions the children’s stories, Grimm Brothers beer isn’t always what it seems: Venture through a mysterious lineup that includes the likes of The Griffin, a hefeweizen made with rare monastic yeast; Master Thief, a porter modeled after the forgotten German versions; and small-batch offerings like this fall’s Brettanomyces-spiked Oktoberfest.
The Fearless Youth
“This is a Munich dunkel and the first Aaron and I ever did together. ‘The Fearless Youth’ is about a boneheaded guy whose dad kicks him out of the house because he’s too stupid to shudder, so he goes forth to figure out how to [be scared]. He eventually complains to his wife, who throws a fish down his back and finally makes him shudder. We just really liked the story.”
“Snow Drop is a traditional Köttbusser ale [a style all but lost after the German purity law] with honey and molasses that add really nice nuances. We named it after a heroine: In the picture, Snow Drop [the original translation of Snow White] knows it’s a poison apple she bites into; she’s facing her fears, making her less of a victim.”
“When porters were popular in England, a few brewers in Germany decided to make them as well, but they used German ingredients—it’s possible they evolved into the schwarzbier. Our German porter’s named after ‘The Master Thief,’ who must steal three things: the king’s horse, his wife’s wedding ring and the sheets from his bed. Our artists modeled the label after the famous portrait of Napoleon.”
“[Pairing with] the story is a traditional hefeweizen, but we use a strain of yeast from Andechs, a monastic brewery in Bavaria. We wanted to come up with a strain that would be a bit different but still recognizable as a weizen. It’s a bit more citrusy with some clove spice.”
Little Red Cap
“This beer’s a Düsseldorf altbier named after Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a pretty traditional German alt, but we put a little more Cascade hops in it—nice and caramelly with clean ale yeast and a dash of citrus. What I like about our label is that she’s looking up at the wolf and holding a hatchet behind her back: She’s not the victim she seems to be.”
PLUS: For Grimm Brothers’ latest release, the team ventured back into the realm of obscure German beer styles to brew Big Bad Wolf, a sticke alt, or “secret alt,” a stronger version of the altbier style traditionally brewed in Dusseldorf. Essentially a heftier version of the brewery’s Little Red Cap, the 8.3%-ABV Big Bad Wolf layers rich, bready malts on the tongue and balances its weight with a dose of both German noble and American hop varieties.