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Thursday, February 21,2013

Basement BRU

Brilliant nanobrewery deserves new digs

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by Joel Dyer

West Pearl Street is no place for a beer nerd.

On the heels of news that Ian Clark, head chef at Jax Fish House, is planning to open a brewpub under his quickly expanding BRU Beer brand, we visited Jax on West Pearl to try BRU in its current home.

And let’s just say we’re excited to see BRU’s restaurant get started. Clark, one of Boulder’s biggest beer nerds, needs a bigger, more beer-centric stage for a nanobrewery that should be ranked among the state’s best.

A veteran homebrewer, Clark first brought BRU to the public as head chef at El Centro. When he was transferred to fellow Big Red F restaurant Jax, BRU came with him. It’s also distributed in bomber bottles in some liquor stores.

For our visit, Jax had just one BRU beer on tap, though it wasn’t on the chalkboard menu. So what we took at first to be a very, very flat version of BRU’s Obitus Brown Ale was in fact Clark’s pumpkin porter. And it was very, very flat for a reason, as he explains to us when he steps out of the kitchen to greet us.

“That’s a real ale,” Clark says, refer- Florence, ring to an unfiltered, unpasteurized, low-carbonation beer style. Ohhh. It all makes sense.

That’s only a glimpse of Clark’s deep understanding of the craft of beer.

He tells us how excited he is to start brewing a Scottish wee heavy; he describes in detail the kinds of flavors to expect from the pumpkin porter; he recites ABVs by memory.

He’s saving our trip, basically. Especially when he tells us three other BRUs are stocked in the cooler in Jax’s basement — information the bartender didn’t have. So we get to try Obitus after all, as well as Citrum IPA and Beezel Belgian.

And we don’t blame the bartenders here. This isn’t Falling Rock or Backcountry Pizza. These guys are used to mixing drinks and recommending wines, and we get the sense beer nerds rarely make a pilgrimage here to try garage-made craft ales.

But they should, because BRU’s beer is flat-out awesome. The bright, apricot- and honey-flavored Beezel, “champagne-like” in Jeff’s words, is drained in minutes. Citrum wins over the IPA-shy in our group — “That is one of my favorite pale ales I’ve ever had,” Joel says — even as hophead David says it’s a little too malty. Elizabeth calls it “mild-mannered” as far as IPAs go. Naturally, I liked it a lot. Obitus, meanwhile, wins praise from all around.

“That’s how I want all brown ales to taste,” David says, which Elizabeth seconds.

We’re more than impressed. We’re marking our calendars for that planned mid-April opening of BRU Handbuilt Ales and Eats at 5290 Arapahoe Ave. because we always celebrate the blossoming of another beer nerd in Boulder.

Next stops: Fate, 1600 38th St., Boulder, 5 p.m. Feb. 21; Gravity, 1150 Pine St. Unit B, Louisville, 5 p.m. Feb. 28. Members of the public are welcome.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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