What do you get when you combine Boulder and beer? For Chris Asher, the answer is a whole business devoted to all things organic. His brewery produces a full line of organic-certified beer, which ensures he has a niche in Colorado’s saturated beer market. Last fall, we stopped by the brewery to chat with Asher about finding ingredients, losing weight, and ambers.
Name: Chris Asher, Asher Brewing Company
Experience: More than 10 years
5280: How did you get started as a brewer?
Chris Asher: I started home brewing in college and went a little crazy with it. I ended up teaching small brewing classes and then graduated. I moved to Boulder in hopes of getting a brewery job. I started calling breweries from the Yellow Pages and got a job at Golden City Brewery. I worked there for about four years. Then I went to business school at CU and got my MBA there. Then I was sub-leasing the brewery at the RedFish.
5280: Why brew only organic beer?
CA: It is better for the consumer. You’re not ingesting pesticides, and herbicides, and fungicides. It is better for the environment, obviously. It doesn’t screw up the groundwater and the rivers. …It is better for the beer. I found a couple studies that show the effects of fungicides on yeast and fermentation. Yeast is a fungus. Those fungicides carry over into the finished beer. You get a slow, lagging fermentation with the fungicides. You get a slower fermentation, and the sugars don’t ferment out because the fungicides are working against the yeast.
5280: Is it hard to find organic ingredients? If so, why?
CA: It has been tough, in the past, to get organic ingredients. It is hard to find organic hops. They’re susceptible to aphids and mildew. There are a lot of pesticides used on hops. I get some German and some U.S. hops. It’s been tough; I’ve called every farm in the U.S. that grows organic hops. There’s like 10.
5280: What is the organic certification process like?
CA: It is not easy. They’ve got to see invoices. We have to track our inventory of grains and hops; show them how much we went through. We have to put lot numbers on every delivery. We have to put those lot numbers on our brew sheets. It is a lot of extra paperwork. We get inspected once a year. They’re looking at the paperwork and look around the brewery. They look at sanitizers; we can’t use anything chlorine-based. All the cleaning chemicals must be on the OP list [Organic Products].
5280: Why persevere?
CA: I saw the potential in the market for the organic beer. People were interested because it was organic. They didn’t care about the style. I try and eat all organic. As I’ve researched organic ingredients for the brewery, I’ve changed to eat mostly organic and I’ve lost 15 pounds.
5280: How do customers react when they come to the brewery?
CA: We get a mix of people who are local because they like the beer and don’t care, and people who want organic. The fact that it’s organic makes it better.
5280: What’s your favorite beer on the list?
CA: The IPA is probably my stand-by: Green Bullet. … We add hops during the boil. We send it through a hot bath on the way to the fermenter, and then dry-hop it again in the fermenter, so it’s got a lot of flavor and aroma and we keep the bitterness low. It has less bitterness than traditional IPAs. I make the beers how I like them. My beers aren’t too styled.
5280: How does that play out? How is your amber different than a traditional amber? What’s a “Chris” style?
CA: Our amber is more of a German Altbier rather than an American amber (which is more hoppy). Ours is malty and smooth. It isn’t that citrusy American hop flavor.
5280: Do you have a favorite ingredient?
CA: I like all beer ingredients—that are organic.