This summer, Denver Beer Co will celebrate 10 years of brewing in our fair city. It’s been a mostly incredible ride. I have tons of interesting, funny, and inspiring stories to share about these years and the experiences we have had. And as the actual anniversary gets closer I’ll look forward to sharing those.
But today I’d like to share what I can unequivocally say has been the hardest, saddest, and worst thing that has happened to our DBC community in that time. As many of our fans know, we lost our friend and head brewer, Jason Buehler, in a terrible hiking accident this last November.
The beer industry is supposed to be fun, and it is, for the most part. We love what we do, we do it because the process is amazing, the raw materials are delicious, but mostly because the people are freaking awesome. We get to come together everyday and talk about beer! I don’t use the word, “family” lightly, we really do have a tight knit group of people working together toward common goals. It’s been my experience that the entire craft beer industry is full of great people, but I am sincerely proud of our team. And while Jason was with us, we had fun.
He brought ideas, skills, experiences, and love to work with him everyday. He cared for his beers like they were his kids. He cared for his coworkers like a coach cares for his players. Spending time in the brewery with him felt like you were watching an artist who is intricately in tune with his instruments. It’s not that making beer wasn’t a job for Jason, every job is a job with its stresses and hardships. But it was a job he absolutely loved. Daily.
His passion for the craft beer world was embedded in his lifestyle. Family vacations were spent with friends from the industry in Montana, Puebla, and beyond. I have never met anyone more magnetic than Jason. It was tough to walk through the room at any craft beer convention or festival with JB. Everyone wanted to hug him and catch up for a bit. And have a beer with him.
Celebrating his life by brewing a specialty batch of beer has been incredibly emotional for me. Deciding what flavors would honor him could have gone a million different directions. He won GABF medals in categories as diverse as Wood and Barrel Aged beer, and Chile beer (and those were both just this year). But the Black IPA (King Ink) we won with at GABF in 2015 really was a special one. It was a category and beer style that was boundary pushing, out there, and delicious. Jason decided he wanted to win in that category. That year. He had brewed at Oskar Blues a black IPA called Home Skillet the year before, and knew he was close. So when we tasted the first batch of King Ink, we knew it had a chance for a GABF medal. His confidence was rewarded. This is why we chose this as the base for our celebratory brew. Because Jason was willing to take the risk on a new beer style, and succeed.
Rosita de Cacao is included as well in the batch we brewed for Jason. The craft beer community in Mexico was near and dear to Jason’s heart. He had a bunch of opportunities to work with and learn from the brewers he met in his travels, and we wanted to honor that as well. Recently he had been working with Cerveceria Itañeñe on some collaborations focusing on Rosita, a mexican flower known for strong notes of orange, chocolate, and maple. The absolute uniqueness of this project made us track some down, smuggle it back to the brewery, and include it as a nod to this incredible part of his brewing career.
The result is Sunrise Sensei. As the first person up every morning to watch a new day begin, he was the consummate teacher. We learned from him, and will continue to be inspired by him. This beer honors Jason well. It is a complex blend of citrusy hops, roasted caramel notes, and sweet cocoa. It takes his adventurous spirit and blends it with his ability to make a friend out of anyone over a beer.
Thanks to Breakthru Beverage, Oskar Blues, Columbine Label, Yakima Chief Hops, Proximity Malt, Lucia and Cerveceria Itañeñe, and Artist Megan Wingelet. With their help, and our amazing Denver Beer Co brewing and packaging team, we will donate 100% of the sales of this special beer to Jason’s family. They are our family too. And we will all celebrate our friend Jason together.
Sunrise Sensei Recipe
For those who would like to home brew Sunrise Sensei, the recipe is as follows:
Style: Black IPA
SRM: 32 (plus Sinamar)
Yield: 5 gallons
Mash at 155°F for 40 minutes (mix grains with four gallons of mash water at 167°F). Run off into brew kettle and sparge with 170°F water for a target pre-boil volume of 5.5 gallons. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops according to above list. After 90 minutes, stir kettle to whirlpool and add end of boil hops and Sinamar. Quickly chill wort to 68°F and rack to fermentation vessel. Aerate and pitch yeast. Dry hop and add Rosita when fermentation is finished (around day 8). If you do not have a secondary fermentation vessel, put Rosita in a tea bag with a string so it is easily removed. Taste daily until Rosita flavor is prevalent but not overpowering, 3-5 more days. When it reaches desired intensity, remove flowers or rack into secondary fermentation vessel and crash cool to 32°F. Once cold, rack into keg for force carbonation or into bottling vessel containing priming sugar for natural carbonation in bottles.