With a pivot into mixed-culture fermentation, Miranda and Kyle Carbaugh’s growing brewery is gaining a deserved reputation among consumers and industry insiders alike.
For Christmas in 2008, Miranda Carbaugh gave her husband, Kyle, a journal in which he could record the breweries they visited. Together, they set out to hit as many Colorado destinations as possible, spending weekends and other free time enjoying a variety of local brews at both small and large establishments. After exploring 60 or 70 locations in 2009, they had to face a simple fact: They were hooked.
“It felt like such a great culture and community that we wanted to be a part of it,” Carbaugh says. “But this was right after the mortgage crisis, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to get a loan as 25- or 26-year-olds. So, we basically started saving every cent that we could.”
The couple lived on one income for the next few years — socking away the other — until they had enough money to fund their dream. But they didn’t just spend that time earning their paychecks; they also purchased professional equipment and began scaling and perfecting Kyle’s homebrew recipes.
“Kyle’s parents have a horse barn, and we’d basically brew into seven-barrel fermenters just to get the practice and really refine our recipes,” Carbaugh explains. “On day one when we opened, we were already used to brewing on a larger scale.”
Since then, the Carbaughs have brewed more than 200 different one-off beers. The brews on tap in their 15-tap tasting room change constantly, with the exception of their award-winning Super 77 American Wheat and customer-favorite Deep Roots Chocolate Porter. “We’re constantly trying new things and creating new recipes,” Carbaugh says. “If someone is expecting the same beer every time they come in, we’re probably not a good fit for them.”
Wiley Roots produced 600 barrels on their seven-barrel system in 2016 and is on track for 800 for 2017. Carbaugh is particularly excited about the upcoming release of Funk Yo Couch, a farmhouse inspired recipe brewed with their house culture. “We just won a gold medal [at the Great American Beer Festival] for our Galaxy Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch,” she explains. “On December 8 and 9, we’ll be releasing a Mosaic Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch.” They’re also planning a caramel coffee pastry stout release — in cans — in December.
Distribution is local, and there’s no rush to move quickly to grow the map. “Our bottles are available in 30 to 50 liquor stores, mostly in the Front Range area,” Carbaugh says. “At this point in time, our cans are available in the taproom only.”
Favorite beers: The Carbaughs recently traveled to Chicago for the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer. “My personal favorite there was Atrial Rubicite from Jester King,” Carbaugh says. “They won a medal for it in the wild beer sours with fruit category.”
Among Wiley Roots’ own brews, Carbaughs past favorites include Cinna(MAN)bun, a cinnamon vanilla golden sour, and Packed with Peaches. “I’m a real sucker for peach sours,” she says. “Based on our pounds of peaches per gallon, it’s one of my personal favorites.”
Challenges: Though the Carbaughs started Wiley Roots with the intention to brew clean, classic styles, a trip to Jester King Brewery inspired them to make a rapid change of direction a little over a year ago.
“We realized that we really wanted to develop our mixed culture fermentation program,” Carbaugh says. “We decided we’d rather not exist than not be able to brew beer the way that we want.”
As a result of the pivot, the brewery’s customer base has evolved and changed along with the taproom staff. “We’re gaining more recognition in this area, but so much has changed that we aren’t really the same company we were four years ago,” Carbaugh adds. “It has been bittersweet but also really exciting.”
Opportunities: Kyle and Miranda have grown Wiley Roots’ mixed fermentation program substantially in the past year, increasing their number of dedicated aging barrels from just a few to 140. They’ve added eight stainless steel tanks for mixed culture fermentation along with a couple of foeders as well. Their clean beers are fermented in two seven-barrel and two 15-barrel fermenters.
“We’ve pretty much maxed out our 8,000-square-foot space,” Carbaugh says. “Right now, our clean barrels are just in a different room. If we could separate those [from our mixed fermentation barrels] a bit more, that would be ideal, whether it’s a different brewing system or more space. But both of those are just wishes at this point.”
Needs: Other than needing more space — the brewing area itself, though 800 square feet in size, is arranged in such a way that they can only tackle one task at a time — Carbaugh says Wiley Roots is in a good place.
“We have a really great staff and have attracted people who are committed to what we are doing,” she says. “When we first started, we weren’t sure someone would drive from the other side of town. But now we have people who drive an hour just to work for us. I think that’s exemplary of the reputation that we’re building.”