In Denver, Old Beer Gets a New Look
As my fiancé and I made our way up to the Presidential Suite at Denver’s famous Oxford Hotel, a cocktail of excitement, amusement and curiosity started to build in my stomach. In a town like Denver, which is arguably the best place in the nation to experience new and strange breeds of craft brew, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Former Future Brewing Company’s first ever reveal of their flagship brews, at a private event open to only 30 people who managed to nab brown bag tickets in a competitive online frenzy a month earlier.
Former Future Brewing Company— made up of husband and wife team James and Sarah Howat—takes a unique look at historical beer styles and attempts to rebuild them into futuristic representations of their former selves. From the manifesto on their website, “Our beer is based on historical recipes or styles, deconstructed, mixed with cutting edge techniques and unique ingredients to yield a product that is drinkable, delicious, and completely unique.” The results of their ventures can be, to put it lightly, a shock to the palate, even for the most seasoned craft beer fans.
Up in the Presidential Suite, James and Sarah waited anxiously for the guests to file in. Josh, my fiancé, excitedly started talking with James and Sarah about their plans for the future of Former Future, which involved some prospective taproom locations in the Highlands and Baker neighborhoods, two up-and-coming craft beer destinations in the Denver metro area. Around the room, guests grabbed small baggies of Former Future beer-inspired cookies from The Cookie Brewer and mingled among themselves, a low but steady buzz filling the room.
When the time finally came to start sampling, James and Sarah moved to the front of the room and introduced their first brew, The Harvester, a dry saison standing at about 4.9% ABV. Staying true to their vision of deconstructing old favorites and turning them into something new, the Harvester takes the traditional farmhouse ale style and gives it a nice twist. This beer, made with a wild yeast that James collected from his very own backyard, is dry and sweet, but not too demanding like many saisons tend to be, with a crisp finish and clean mouthfeel. As I sipped, I couldn’t help but think that this beer would work perfectly as a mid-summer session beer, something to enjoy after a day in the sun.
Next up came the Red Coat, a 6.0% ABV IPA. This beer, an English style IPA inspired by a traditional English recipe, is made with brown malts rather than the traditional crystal malts, and perfectly hopped to balance out the steady backbone of toasted malt. Dark and golden with a foamy white head, this was by far one of my personal favorites and, as a hop-head, I found the bitterness of the hops and the toasty sweetness of the malts to be perfectly balanced. I wasn’t alone; many guests listed this as their favorite. In fact, the beer was so popular that the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand when the time came to pour pint-sized samples later in the evening.
Their third beer, The Magistrate, is a sweet chocolate stout weighing in at around 5.5% ABV. The color is a barely see-though black with a mild brown head, smelling of chocolate without much follow-through in taste. It’s definitely much sweeter and less roasty than most stouts, with a syrupy mouthfeel and sugary aftertaste. This makes it feel more like a dessert beer, rather than something you might enjoy at the bar. Though my own personal tastes tend to lend themselves to the drier, hoppier beers, this one seems to have a strong backbone and, with some tweaks to the malt profile (let’s see more chocolate!), I can see it becoming a stout-lovers favorite in no time.
The fourth and final beer, The Mariner, was by far the most unusual and inspiring beer at the entire event. The Mariner is a salted porter—and by salt, I mean a real mouthful of saltwater and malts that compliment each other and confuse the palate at the same time. At first sip, the taste of salt is almost overpowering, but quickly dies off into the plum-flavored profile of the stout. It finishes clean without much of a syrupy aftertaste. Reactions to this beer were definitely mixed throughout the crowd, though I, for one, LOVED it. Aside from the Red Coat, I think this is the beer I’m most excited to try again once FF opens their own location in the (hopefully) near future.
This brewery is for James and Sarah a dream one year in the making, and one that I’m sure my fellow Denverites are anxiously anticipating. Keep an eye out for Former Future’s big debut sometime this fall, where they hope to have one of the most comfortable taprooms in Denver, including eight different beers rotating on tap at any given time.