Head brewer and co-owner Jeff Tyler makes beer to complement — and stand up to — flavorful and spicy food, including the fare at his brewery’s upcoming Greenwood Village showcase taproom.
“Our mantra at Spice Trade is that we brew beer inspired by culinary ingredients and cultural traditions from all over the world,” says Tyler.
The beers before us speak to that inspiration. And they alternately complement, contrast, or cut through the heat, spice, and fat of the Indian-Nepalese-Tibetan food on our plates. Spice Trade operates out of a seven-barrel system in the back of the Yak & Yeti Restaurant and Brewpub in Olde Town Arvada. The smell of food spices rides on the air a half a block away on Ralston Road, before even arriving there on foot.
Tamarindus Indicus is a Belgian-style Abbey dubbel brewed with tamarind — which Tyler says adds “this tart, raisiny and tobacco flavor to the beer. . . . It works really well with the Belgian esters that you get with the yeast.” He also points out that the banana-like esters in the beer complement the sliced bananas and cinnamon in the yogurt cream sauce dessert, shikarni.
Tyler recommends the brewery’s Himalayan IPA to whisk away the spicy curry flavor of the curried tikka masala. “That bitterness really helps cut through the fat of the food, and it means it can kind of reset you for another bite,” says Tyler.
On the other hand, the Thai Tripel stands up to — and pleasingly contrasts with — the tikka masala; it’s brewed with lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger, Kaffir lime leaves, and coriander. Tyler says, “I get a lot of herbal lime flavors — and that’s from those Kaffir lime leaves — and its got a little spice at the end from the ginger.” And this writer also recommends trying the Chai Milk Stout — brewed with chai tea spices — with a samosa.
Starting in fall 2019, Spice Trade Brewing will be operating a tap room and 15-barrel brewery in Greenwood Village at East Orchard Road and South Yosemite Street. It will give Tyler the ability to brew 3,000 barrels per year, although he expects to do 1,500 initially. In 2018, the Arvada location brewed 350, which was supplemented by about another 350 barrels brewed and canned off-premise.
Furthermore, the food offerings in Greenwood Village will differ from the four Yak & Yeti restaurants that Spice Trade presently supplies with beer. Tyler says, “We brew beer [styles] from around the world, so we want to pair street food from around the world with that.”
Tyler, 30, had a unique background prior to brewing. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked in Massachusetts at iRobot, where Tyler says, “I helped design and make improvements to the Roomba vacuum cleaner.” He was also employed at a biofuels company, “designing solar bio reactors.” Tyler says, “I don’t think people realize how similar the biotech worlds and the brewing worlds are. . . . They use the same sanitary 3A piping standards, the same heat exchangers, the same pumps, CIP.”
In 2016, Tyler quit his job, sold his belongings, and drove a trailer containing his homebrewing equipment from Boston to Denver, determined to enter the beer world. Six months later, he landed his job at Yak & Yeti, replacing another former engineer, as well as an award-winning brewer, Adam Draeger. Tyler says his engineering background comes in handy running a manual system and making repairs when needed. In 2017, he led the re-branding of Yak & Yeti’s brewing operation to the Spice Trade name.
Later that year, Tyler spearheaded a unique collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens, which involved capturing a yeast from their Scarlet Giant hibiscus plant and — once grown by Inland Island Yeast Laboratories — using it to ferment a Gose beer, Scarlet Giant. The beer also features the addition of hibiscus tea from The Boulder Tea Company, as well as key lime. Tyler calls it, “A great summertime beer. It’s a Gose, so it’s brewed with Utah rock salt and coriander, and it’s a little bit sour. It’s got salinity from the salt. And then the hibiscus gives it this beautiful pink color and herbal character to it. I always tell people it’s kind of like a tart herbal tea.”
A tart, German-style beer incorporating a yeast cultured in Denver and tropical citrus? For Tyler, it’s all part of his world of interests.
“I love food, I love drinks, I love travel, and I love flavors,” he says.
Favorite beers: “At this point I’m really excited at people who are focused on using beer as a medium for culture and flavor,” says Tyler.
In that regard, he gives a shout out to The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project in Denver for mixing unique ingredients into its beers. Tyler and Intrepid Sojourner’s Andrew Moore also produce a weekly video podcast called Beer Craft.
One of their guests on Beer Craft has been Fal Allen of the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. “Anderson Valley was really the Gose that got me excited about brewing that style of beer,” says Tyler.
Brewing Spice Trade’s canned beer, for now, at Copper Kettle Brewing Company leads Tyler to recommend that brewery’s Mexican Chocolate Stout and a prickly pear Gose: “They make great beer.”
And being a one-time resident of New England, Tyler fondly recalls drinking, early on, regional IPAs from “Tree House and Trillium and The Alchemist — all those guys making the style, before it migrated across the U.S.”
Challenges: Tyler laments the change in legislation that has allowed grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, calling it “a huge hit for craft breweries” and small liquor stores.
He says, “I think one reason craft breweries were allowed to proliferate so well [in Colorado] was because distribution wasn’t choked off — and with that legislation coming into effect this year, it really started to cinch down on small self-distributed breweries. The big chains are only dealing with major distributors. Breweries our size can’t afford the margins to go with the distributor yet.”
Opportunities: Tyler points to that upcoming production brewery and taproom opening in Greenwood Village this fall: “I think this expansion is really going to solidify Spice Trade as a brewery in its own right.”
Needs: Conveying the mission of the brewery directly to the customers at the new space. “The new brewpub’s going to be very experiential — and focused on getting that message across to our drinkers,” says Tyler.