Courtesy of City Star Brewing
The charming little town of Berthoud lies just 30 minutes from Boulder but it feels worlds, even decades, away.
As I pulled up to City Star Brewing, under heavy clouds and light rain on an early Friday morning, people were out hanging their flags, running their errands and opening the many small businesses that line the center of town. This town’s pride and character persisted as I entered the brewery.
Co-owner, John Way, opened the door for me as he held his two-month-old son in the other arm. His wife and co-owner, Whitney Taylor, stood behind him, welcoming me into their establishment, which is uniquely adorned with a large community table in the center of room and, above it, the artfully crafted light fixture that John made out of an old oak barrel.
I had heard City Star followed a purist mentality when it came to brewing — avoiding foreign substances and chemicals that aid in the efficiency practices of many breweries. After speaking to the husband-and-wife team, I learned they haven’t limited themselves to a strict set of rules, but more a simplistic confidence in natural ingredients and processes, with a thirst for knowing and mastering their craft.
“I don’t use any foreign substances in my beer because, well, I drink a lot of it,” John explained. “I don’t know exactly what’s in a lot of these substances, and so I don’t want to ingest that into my body. We’ve found these ingredients are unnecessary to us, so why subject our customers to them?”
The commonly used products and additives used in beer have not been found to be harmful, but brewers like John don’t find them necessary to their processes.
For John, brewing using only natural ingredients was a natural progression rather than a conscious decision.
“I didn’t need any products like anti-foam when I was home brewing, so when I moved to a larger scale, I figured, why put something in the beer I really don’t need?”
They showed me around their brew house — a 3.5 barrel system that produced 795 barrels last year (that’s 1,590 kegs). While almost all of their brews are unfiltered, John laughed as he picked up a small device he has used to filter a few of his beers, explaining, “It’s definitely a [do-it-yourself ] project — actually made for water filtration. It does the job but can’t handle the sediment too well.”
They used this filter before the labor-intensive hand bottling and waxing of their first two bottle selections. The do-it-yourself attitude is alive at City Star and their passion for what they do shows in their success.
City Star is also soon expanding, taking over the space next door to them. But they will still maintain a modest-sized operation, hoping to brew around 200 additional barrels in the coming year. For City Star, quality is superior to quantity. John noted: “We make high quality, delicious beer. We use the highest quality ingredientsfrom grain, hops and water, to our processes. I’m a process geek. We’re always trying to fine-tune our processes.” His yearning to master brewing likely has a lot to do with wanting to know exactly what ingredients are going into his beer.
As their new baby slept quietly in John’s arms, Whitney handed me one of their wax-dipped bottles of Scoundrel, a sour Brown Ale aged in cabernet barrels, saying, “It’s about personality. From the beer we make, to the people working in our taproom, that’s what we’re striving for. We offer personality coupled with beer.”