Settled in the heart of beer greatness sits a family-owned and run brewery that is bringing back to life beers that were lost in flames of World War II. Diebolt Beer Company lies just to the northwest of downtown Denver with direct views of the Mile-High City skyline. The brewery lives up to both its French beer tradition and the city of Denver’s reputation as the microbeer capital of the nation.
Denver, Colorado is considered the Mecca of the microbrewery movement in the United States. Out of Colorado have sprung hundreds of breweries, some that have grown to nationwide status and fame. Beer is so influential that the former governor made his start as the owner and founder of Whynecop Brewing before becoming the mayor and eventual governor of the state.
For a family run and owned brewery to keep apace of this beer tradition is a testament to the excellent work and growing popularity of Diebolt Brewing Company.
The French Tradition
“The family that brews together stays together” is the case with the Diebolt Brewing in Denver. Brewing is in the blood of this family. Dan Diebolt, who is easy to chat with, explained that he got his start pressing grapes in his garage. The family can trace its line back to distant relatives currently making champagne in the Alsace Lorraine region of France. An old grape press sits in the brewery, a reminder of the family’s fermenting tradition.
France is not well-known for its beer, but it should be. The northern areas of France have always been a powerhouse of beer makers and drinkers. Paris is much further north in the country of France, and most of the wine regions are far to the south. There are a few pockets of wine cultivation near the capital, but the northern part of France is much better suited for barley cultivation and brewing of beer. Paris sits just 175 miles from the stout beer country of Belgium. That’s only a two and a half-hour drive to the border.
It is this French ancestry and ties to historical French brewing regions that have influenced many of the beer styles at Diebolt (pronounced Deebolt).
But while the French heritage is the inspiration for the beers the company brews, Dan and Jack Diebolt are small-town heroes, hailing from life in Oklahoma. It is their small-town upbringing which makes them want to preserve that same sense of pride, community, and camaraderie that is well known in the Denver area.
Founding a Family Brewery
I discovered the brewery shortly after they opened in 2013. At the time, my interest in local vegetable production had led me to buy food from a local urban farm. One day, I noticed the hops the farm had been growing were no longer there. Asking, I was informed that a local brewery had purchased all the hops along with a large selection of the winter squash. That seemed really interesting, and I made it a point to ride my bike to the brewery on my way home from work a few weeks later.
Diebolt was quiet on a Thursday night. I ordered the farm beer they had created from my friend’s farm. It was excellent – so good that I ordered another and settled into my Umberto Eco book. The woman behind the bar came over and asked what I was reading. It turned out that she was a career librarian, and a lively conversation on books ensued. When I asked about the new brewery, she informed me that her name was Martha Diebolt and that her family owned and ran the brewery.
It enthralled me that near the heart of downtown Denver, in the most prominent beer center in the world, there was a family-run brewery that made a point of brewing a small-batch beer from an urban farm. The brewery became a regular stop for me, and a friendship developed between the Diebolts and myself.
Jack Diebolt, the son of Dan and Martha, is the leading brewer and recipe creator at the brewery. His fascination with the French Saison has grown over the years: “Much of the old-style farmhouse Saisons were lost in World War II. I have done a lot of research on how to brew those beers, and place my own twists on the process.”
The French Saison
While the Saison beer style is considered to be of Dutch origin, the style did cross national boundaries and was considered a farm staple in much of northern France. Saison is French for “season” and is considered to be a pale ale. Brewed in the colder months of the year in farmhouses, the Saison was stored for drinking in the summer months. Beer was often brewed outside in the cooler months, as it would have spoiled in the heat of summer. It’s only with the invention of refrigeration that brewing year-round has been possible.
Jack has worked to capture the essence of the family brewing nature of the French countryside, often using ingredients that are not traditional.
As the brewery grew, the Diebolts hit on a clever way to try out new styles of beers and gauge customer reactions. The Lightning Bottle Club existed for several years, and for a flat, up-front fee, select customers received monthly bombers of experiment beers. Many of the beers on the Diebolt taps were once born of the bottle club and those experiments Jack undertook.
The beer on tap at Diebolt is always carefully crafted and monitored. A customer cannot make a wrong choice. The flagship beers are all excellent, and many of them are canned and distributed in the Denver-metro region.
The French Amber
Perhaps the hallmark beer at the brewery, the Anton Francois is a French Amber that is a smooth drinking beer with a light malt and fruity aroma. The malt gives the beer just a slight earthiness. At an ABV of 5.5 and an IBU of 25, the beer holds well for several rounds.
In a state known for its IPAs, the twin beers at Diebolt will make any IPA lover cry-out for joy. The Greenback IPA, named after Colorado’s native trout species, is a light, clean, hoppy, and refusing beer. It has an excellent balance with plenty of citrus and piney aromas, with just enough malt to offset the bitterness. It comes with an ABV of 6 percent and an IBU of 85.
The near, but much more substantial, twin to the Greenback, is the double IPA Magdalena. A heavy hand with Simcoe, Cascade, and Columbus hops bring out robust tropical fruit notes. At the same time, a higher finishing gravity lends a caramelly biscuit malt sweetness before a dry bitterness takes over. It comes in with a high ABV of 8.2 percent and an IBU of 75.
The New Face of Lite
Right now, the D. Bolt Lite Lager is one of the best light beers on the market. While we enjoy all of the great beer coming out of microbreweries, sometimes you just need what is known as a “Lake Beer,” something that you can sip without getting all wobbly after the second beer. Most breweries see light beer as a joke, but most beers sold in the United States are light lagers. So the Diebolts came up with a beer that hits all the easy-drinking of lite beers, with a crisp flavor that is truly refreshing. According to Jack Diebolt, the new lite beer is killing it in the Denver market as people flock to a not pretentious lite beer made in a small brewery.
The Big Brown Winner
While not brewed all of the time, the Braggart Brown Ale not only is an easy drinker, but it won Silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014, just a year after Diebolt opened for business. As the Diebolts say themselves, “not quite American but not quite English, this Brown Ale straddles the pond nicely with a healthy dose of English hops, a bold roasty aroma and a smooth malt flavor with a slightly bitter finish. Not to brag, but this is the best brown around.” Indeed it is excellent!
The best always comes last, and Diebolt has really caught lightning with the expanded line of Saison beers. The Saison Voila is a traditional Saison, lightly golden in color with a lively carbonation. A wonderful nose of white pepper, spice, and fruity esters transitions to a husky, rustic, slightly grainy flavor, which melds nicely with the fruity, peppery notes before drifting to a pleasant medium dryness.
The peak of all the Diebolt work is perhaps the C’est la Saison, which is classified as a super Imperial Saison. These beers are barrel-aged for several months in oak barrels. The core beer will take on the flavor of the barrel that it is aged in. In the most recent release, five barrels were used: Tequila, Red Zin, Chardonnay, Rum, and Bourbon. Each one of these beers is a masterpiece in its own right, but the Tequila barrel-aged beer makes for one of the most exciting beers for most drinkers.
For more information on Diebolt Brewery, please visit their website at dieboltbrewing.com.