Interview by Kimmy Dumont
TEDxMileHigh sat down with Sean Buchan and Chris Washenberger during a recent Adventure to find out how Cerebral Brewing is marrying science + art, modern + ancient, and innovation + tradition.
What is Cerebral doing differently than other breweries in a market that is becoming quite saturated?
This is a tough question to answer without diving into a ton of marketing language. We are definitely aware of other breweries and the ones that are hot, not just in Denver, but everywhere. We want to make sure that we continually execute beers that we like. I think as brewers, we ride the line between doing things in a vacuum and saying “Damn, we need to make a beer like Beer x.” Our goal is to take a style or type of beer and bend and tweak it in ways that suit our palates. We want to offer you a beer that illustrates our brewing ideals.
How does history inform what you are doing at Cerebral?
History informs many aspects of the brewing here at Cerebral Brewing. We have thousands of years of predecessors that need to be considered when we develop new recipes. Among the factors that determine beer styles, there are cultural, geographical, technological and even geochemical influences that have all helped a style solidify in a certain place.
For example, Pilsner lagers were developed in the 19th Century due to a general complaint about ale quality. The people that developed Pilsner capitalized on new malting techniques from England, Bavarian brewing knowledge, locally grown hops, and it just so happened that the water in Plzen, Bohemia was very soft, which eases hop bitterness. Coincidentally, at this time, glass was becoming more and more affordable due to new manufacturing methods. All of these varied factors led to the production of a new and beautiful product that was much more accepted by drinkers and could be showcased in glass vessels that were prohibitively expensive before.
That type of example acts as a guide for us. When we approach a style, of course we want to leave our mark and apply our personal style to it but we have to look at stories like this and show the beer the respect that it and its originators deserve.
Where do you think the beer industry is headed in Denver?
I am honestly not sure. There are so many new breweries and many of the established places are in some sort of flux, whether expansion or settling into a new style set, it is hard to see what the Denver industry has in store. What I do see is the formation of a unified voice. We are a very proud group but we always talk and we are recognizing that we share many of the same growing pains and struggles. We are all pooling our experiences and knowledge to help people get through. While we are all competitors, for the most part, we are friends. It is a good place to be and I am as excited as the next person to see what happens here.
What do you hope to see for the future of your community, specifically Colfax avenue? How does Cerebral plan to contribute?
We love this area. I want to see the commercial spaces along Colfax Ave filled with awesome people doing awesome things. We know how hard it is to convince a landlord to rent to someone with no experience and we know how hard it is to pay the rent once you are in that space. We hope that developers continue to take chances and make this a hub of good food and fun places to be.
Our role is evolving, I suppose. We can’t really help fund projects or organizations but we do everything we can to accommodate neighborhood groups with a place to meet and really we want to be a place that fosters discussion about our neighborhood.
For cerebral, how do you see technology and art intersecting to make really delicious beer?
There can be no doubt that making beer is an industrial process. Every new piece of tech is interesting to us. Whether it is the newest controller interface or in-line flow meter, we salivate over weird devices that will make our beer better or make some of the heavy lifting easier. We will continue to add these things and analysis devices so we can keep a high quality and consistently manufactured product in place.
That said, brewing also takes instinct and an ability to execute a vision whose components are organic and biologically dynamic. The palette of ingredients offered to every brewer in the world is actually somewhat limited but infinite flavors and characteristics can be teased out as long as the brewer is willing to study, gain experience, and apply their technical knowledge with the care and attention that any artist is required to give their work.