This post comes to us from Hailey and Cully Radvillas, who made the trip this past Saturday up to Glenwood Springs for Casey Brewing’s latest bottle release.
Not much will get me up at 4:45am on a Saturday morning. Skiing, a flight, and, as of this weekend, a trip to Casey Brewing and Blending in Glenwood Springs, CO. In less than two years, owner and brewer Troy Casey has built a rabid following for his small-batch, oak-aged beers. The taproom is open only once a month, from 11am-4pm, with new bottles released to a long line of beer nerds. We finally decided to make the three and half hour trip to join the line.
With no idea of what to expect, we pulled into one of the few parking spots left at 9am. The taproom is located in a former cross-fit gym next to the Roaring Fork river; the entrance below eyeline from the parking area. We quickly got out of the car and walked down to find a small line of maybe 30-40 people. The first people in line, we were later told, had arrived at 2am (!), which was evident by the fact that they were still in sleeping bags when we staked our spot. Many other early arrivers had brought chairs, snacks, and everything but the camping tent itself.
We sipped coffee and chatted up the folks in line near us as we settled in for the two hour wait for the taproom to open. With 90 minutes left to go, an older couple wearing Casey hoodies arrived, and everyone in line ahead of us greeted them with, “Hi Mom and Dad.” They were Troy Casey’s parents, who come out to every release from their home near Monument, CO. They warmly said hello to everyone in line, and then passed out packages of Oreo cookies “for Easter.” Everyone in line shared the cookies and I started to understand the warm, neighborly vibe that the Casey family exudes.
With 15 minutes to go, Troy came out to address the growing crowd with information regarding available bottles and limits. While some other beer releases have stories of pushing and shoving and disguises, I cannot emphasize how chill the atmosphere was at Casey Brewing. Before we knew it, the large garage door opened, and the line crept forward into the taproom.
For a new brewery with such a large following, the Casey family truly knows how to properly handle a release. The bottle sale is located at the rear of the taproom, with a hanging rope against the wall to control the line. The bar, selling on-site consumption-only glasses and bottles, is directly to the left of the entrance. With this separation, everything moved smoothly and no one seemed to wait too long at the bar.
We were quickly told from friends in line to have one person hit up the bar, grab a bottle, and return to the line to drink while you wait. Wise advice. We enjoyed a glass each of the Cherry Fruit Stand, followed by a bottle of the Advanced Oak Theory. The Cherry Fruit Stand began as a Saison base with cherries added into the barrels. The result was sour and funky with a pink tinge to a traditional cloudy saison. The Advanced Oak Theory is whiskey barrel-aged and, for us, outshone the much-lauded Fruit Stand. The whiskey took this American Wild Ale to a new sweet and boozy level, while still maintaining it’s tart base.
The line moved at a decent pace, and we soon were purchasing our limits of a Dry Hopped Saison, Oak Theory, and a Dry Hopped Oak Theory. Another beer, The Cut: Blackberry, wasn’t ready to sell yet, so as a consolation, Troy offered up magnums of Oak Theory and East Bank, as well as a “grab bag” of a variety of Fruit Stands from his cellar. We were lucky enough to get bottles of both Plum Fruit Stand variations, as well as a magnum of East Bank. We dropped everything in the car and sat at a table with our new friends from the line as we drank the rest of our bottle of Advanced Oak Theory.
Troy’s father, Greg Casey, a contributor to the book, Brewing Chemistry and Technology in the Americas, and an instructor at the Siebel Institute, soon asked if anyone wanted a tour of the facility. During the tour, Greg explained how Casey Brewing follows traditional Belgium brewing practices, which is why they chose the former crossfit gym, as it’s dug halfway into a hill, producing a cellar with consistent natural temperatures. Greg also mentioned that all ingredients in their beer, from the hops to the fruit, are all from Colorado; and even how the recent late freeze could affect their plans to produce an apricot beer later this year.
After the tour, it was getting near 2:30pm, most of the crowd had left, and we had closed our tab and finished our bottle. Suddenly, Troy walks over to our table and, ever so nonchalantly, mentions that he pulled out one case of The Cut: Cherry, bottled less than two weeks ago, and would be pouring glasses at the bar shortly.
I made a beeline for the bar, pulled cash from my wallet, and patiently (well, sort of patiently) waited my turn for two glasses. The beer poured an incredibly vibrant red with a decent head. We decided to sit at one of the many outdoor picnic tables to enjoy our final glass of the day.
The Cut: Cherry blew everything else we had tasted out of the water. It was cherry pie in a glass. It was sweet, creamy, tart, and I can’t believe I’ll have to wait until the next release to buy any more.
We will definitely be returning to Casey Brewing and Blending. Even with a long drive, a long wait in line, and a little ding to my checking account, it was still an amazing experience in a beautiful location with extremely friendly people. And, of course, absolutely stellar beer.