Brewer - Brewery Rickoli
Address - 4335 Wadsworth Boulevard Wheat Ridge, CO
By Kevin Bennett
Proclaiming there’s no holding back Brewery Rickoli is the most understated proclamation since it was declared recreational marijuana “may” boost Colorado's economy. Some things are just obvious. Denver is the second fastest growing city in the US and Colorado craft beer sales numbers keep breaking records set from the previous years. In 2011 there were approximately 125 breweries in Colorado; now there are over 250. That's a 100% growth increase in just 5 years. I can't think of a sector—with the exception of maybe Facebook—that has enjoyed such an explosion. What is fueling this phenomenal growth trend? That's the purpose of this article, and I've approached it through a sit-down conversation with Colorado's top brewmaster Rick Abitbol of Brewery Rickoli.
Sitting down with Rick wasn't easy to do. He is a hands-on owner/brewer. Between the growth of Denver, his new bottling venture, and bouncing from the back to the front of the house, operations have left Rick in high demand; which we both agree is a great problem to have. Rick and I discussed life in Denver, his beer, the Colorado beer scene, and reasons Brewery Rickoli has experienced the success that it has. In a relatively short period of time Brewery Rickoli has grown from a neighborhood brewpub to a Statewide and Regional favorite; which is downright remarkable. Rick and I also discussed some impressive accomplishments the brewery has made; such as Rick's joint venture with Sam Adams and his silver medal win at last year's Great American Beer Festival. The scene is expanding, and talking to Rick, the reason why just gets clearer and clearer.
Brewery Rickoli products are made with higher quality ingredients – is that correct?
Brewery Rickoli: Yes. Since we are brewing beer for the gluten sensitive, we also pay attention to other issues such as GMOs. Also, we only use the finest quality ingredients—I know all brewers tell you that but they will tell you that even when they are actually using the lowest-cost North American GMO barley they can find as the base-malt for their beers. There are exceptions of course; and in their minds, they may be using what they think is best. But we feel at Brewery Rickoli (BR) that European malts are vastly superior to North American malts; not only because of the lack of GMO use, but because the [European] malting houses have old-world style and flavor; the kind that comes from generations of malting. Hops—I have maintained decade-long hop contacts in order to secure better hop lots than other brewers. I get my hops contracted from the source, as opposed to just buying on-the-spot at market. Where do you think the higher quality hops are going to be?
What do you mean when you discuss your products being Gluten removed, as opposed to Gluten Free?
Brewery Rickoli: Gluten Free is brewing with alternative grains and ingredients. Sorghum, Millet, Rice, Buckwheat, raisins... You can make some interesting beverages, but they don't drink like beer. Our beers are just that—Beer. We use barley, hops, water and yeast. Sometimes we even use wheat. We "remove”—or, more accurately, “break apart”—the gluten proteins with a simple clarifying agent. The particular agent we use is called Clarity Ferm. It is a certified non-GMO naturally-occurring enzyme called Aspergillus niger. It was originally developed to reduce chill haze in beer. (*GEEK ALERT!* Here's a quick primer on chill haze: when beer gets cold, sometimes the poyphenols and proteins collide and bind together at a site known as the Amino Proline. This make the particles in your beer large enough to create a visual haziness against its normally clear appearance.) Aspergillus niger specifically breaks down only the amino proline. So, by eliminating the prolines, the polyphenols and proteins will not create haze by binding together! So: where does gluten come in? It turns out that a gluten protein is largely bound together by prolines; and because of that, they fall apart into smaller proteins that your body is able to process easier. When tested, these beers typically test to less than ten parts per million of gluten. The FDA gluten-free threshold is higher, at twenty parts per million. And since the pieces are all still in the beer, there's no change in flavor! In short: I can make great beer first, and then make it more accessible without changing its body or flavor at all! I hope that soon, more brewers will start to use this enzyme to elevate the accessibility of beer in general, and to make it a healthier product for all.
Has it been difficult to go this route?
Brewery Rickoli: Totally! When we started, we decided not to really brag up the whole “gluten” thing because most gluten-free products are generally thought of as products with a compromise in quality, taste, or both. We still have just a little blurb on the back of our house menu that says” “All of our beers are gluten-removed”. Now we've started to be recognized and regarded as originators of this cause.
Why did you start so small?
Brewery Rickoli: We had no money! I knew how to brew, knew how to work hard. We just had very few dollars to get this brewery going. We found a tiny spot in a strip-mall, installed some plumbing and I started brewing on two home-brew systems I had at the time. I had no funds to buy a brew system, only money for fermenters, kegs, and to build the cooler and tap system. We use our tagline Brew, “Small-Drink Big!” to convey the message of totally fresh, small-batch beer that tastes great. So we started by brewing fifteen gallons at a time, six times a day, about three or four days a week. In April of 2015 I put together a larger brew-system that can brew 100 gallons at a time. The beers have only gotten better with the better brew-system, but it's still much smaller than most places you see.
Did you have any prior brewing experience?
Brewery Rickoli: For sure—you can't just come out of your garage and think that you are going to wow the world with brew made on your home-brew system! The only reason I had confidence that I could was because I had over ten years' professional brewing experience, including a long run at Rock Bottom. As a pro brewer, I learned how to ensure quality and maintain consistent beer flavor regardless of the brewing gear. I also had a good grip on planning, cellaring and getting beer from grain to glass.
How have things gone since you started?
Brewery Rickoli: Things have been going great! In 2013 we won the “Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship” with Boston Beer Company. They loved our story and our beer, and helped us by taking us under their wing for a year, providing guidance, advice, and brewing a collaboration beer with us called Oats McGoats; a gluten-removed rye and oatmeal stout. We hope to do something again with them as it was a great experience! Also, we won a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival for our beer The Statik, which was entered as an American style Barleywine. It has given us some pretty good bragging rights!
Anything exciting ahead?
Brewery Rickoli: Yes. We are looking at putting a plan together now to build a larger brewery that will support the explosive growth we have enjoyed. We have recently started producing 22-ounce bombers of our beers, and are doing really well in liquor stores! We just need to start brewing a bit bigger, I guess.
With attention to detail and passion as exhibited, it appears that Brewery Rickoli is poised to expand. Customers already like experimenting with a variety of different flavors and style, and many have become repeat patrons because the beer just tastes better. Furthermore, Brewery Rickoli has regular seasonal offerings, and makes special batches all the time. Like a popular musician may through their career visit various genres of music, a true brewmaster is going to try different things just for the fun of them. When they catch on, is there any reason not to keep doing them? Beer-geeks agree, Brewery Rickoli has got the goods. It's a regular beervana, as the saying goes.
Brewery Rickoli is a judgement-free zone, designed for people of all walks, faiths, and political ideals to gather cozily and drink. Because that's what a good tavern is, isn't it? Somewhere anybody can go and just...relax. Have you got yoga pants? Drop on by and get a beer. What about a construction belt and tools? Well, you've got a tongue, haven't you? Come taste some Rickoli and see if it doesn't brighten the day a bit, or lend the evening to a pleasant beer-buzzed denouement. And if you're a construction-worker using words like denouement, what are you doing with yourself? Start submitting those short stories and poems! For goodness-sake.
From bourbon-barrels and home-crafting confections to hop-heavy drinks and the stoutest stouts you've heard about, Brewery Rickoli has got your number. The only proviso is this: be careful! There are those who've reported the beer's so good it can be downright addicting. Well, that's how good beer should be; but you may need to start hitting the gym, this stuff's so good! Is that really a caution? Yes and no. Well, see for yourself. Come see Rick at Brewery Rickoli, and give a taste to some of the finest beer available on the market.
BEST OF COLORADO GOLD MEDAL - BREWERY RICKOLI , STATIK
Triple IPA (American Barleywine)