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Home Backpacking A European Backpacking Trip Leads To A Belgian-Style Brewery

A European Backpacking Trip Leads To A Belgian-Style Brewery

by Staff

Winning a gold award for his brewerys Belgian-style red-brown ale elicits memories of a college backpacking trip in the late 1990s for Ryan Evans, the co-founder of Denver’s Bruz Beers. He had a two-hour layover in Brussels, en route by train to Amsterdam, and went to a local pub where he drank a Belgian beer that blew his mind.

“To pass the time, I headed to a local pub and asked for a beer list,” Evans recalls. “It was more of a book than a simple list — wow! I asked the bartender what he most enjoyed, and he stated he liked Tripel Karmeliet. I ordered one, and my life was forever changed on my first sip.”

Belgian-style beers are the bailiwick of Evans and Bruz Beers co-founder Charlie Gottenkieny, and their Oak Marionette on Peaches was the beer that captured the top award at the European Beer Star competition in Nuremberg, Germany, in November. The Flanders red-brown ale was aged with peaches from Colorado’s Western Slope.

Gottenkieny discovered Belgian beers on a business trip in 1988 and also fell in love with them.

“Upon returning to Dallas, where he lived at the time,” says Evans, “Belgian beers just weren’t a thing. So, he taught himself to home brew so that he could make his own Belgian-style beers. He went on to win more than 100 medals along the way, including the American Homebrewers Association’s national championship twice.”

The duo’s beers have won many awards at other beer competitions since Bruz Beers opened its doors in 2016. Their favorite beer remains Triple Karmeliet, brewed by Bosteels Brewery in Buggenhout, Belgium.

“It is a unique tripel with three grains and a touch of coriander and bitter orange peel.,” Evans explains.

Belgium is renowned for its Trappist beers, and Gottenkieny and Evans have different favorites. Gottenkieny’s top choice is Orval.

“It’s his favorite,” Evans says, “because it is completely different from all the other Trappists. It is a beautiful orange color with a massive, rocky, off-white head that lasts and lasts. It has a fragrant aroma that mingles spice, fruit and dry hops, and a rich, malty flavor with a touch of tartness from the Brettanomyces wild yeast. It ages very well and takes on more sour character as it ages — up to 25 years! When celebrating, Charlie doesn’t open champagne — he chooses Orval.”

Evans’ favorite is Chimay’s Cent Cinquante.

“It is a strong blond beer that is smooth and satisfying,” he says. “The floral notes are addicting, making the next sip a must. At 10% ABV, just a few of these will put you in your happy place!”

Another happy place for Evans is atop one of Colorado’s mountains. The state has 54 fourteeners — mountains at least 14,000 feet tall — and he has summited more than half of them.

“The toughest one was the Maroon Bells (two peaks southwest of Aspen),” Evans says. “I climbed South Maroon, then traveresed the ridge to North Maroon, then back to South Maroon before descending.”

Has mountaineering contributed in any way to beermaking?

“Like running a brewing operation, mountaineering involves establishing a goal, developing a strategy for reaching it and maintaining the focus and persistence required to deal with the trek and adversity you encounter along the way,” Evans says. “Small mountains climb big mountains, meaning you take the large ascent and break it into several small ascents, then tackle each one. The same concept applies directly to running a brewery.”

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