Sanitas Brewing Company co-founder strikes out on his own with a Boulder venture dedicated to barrel-aged farmhouse-style beers.
Cellar West Artisan Ales, Boulder’s latest beer producer, isn’t your typical craft brewery. Owner and head brewer Zach Nichols—whose resume includes a stint at Redstone Meadery and credit as a co-founder of Sanitas Brewing Company—was ready for something different. “I really wanted to focus on aging beer in oak, and more of the farmhouse styles,” said Nichols, who officially started brewing under the Cellar West name in April 2016.
Belgian farmhouse-style ales are yeast-forward beers that were originally brewed by farmers looking for a refreshing drink to hydrate their workers during long days in the fields; the brews were aged, too, for a longer shelf life. In recent years, farmhouse-style ales have surged in popularity with many breweries now offering a saison, the most well-known of the farmhouse-style beers. But only a handful of brewers have opted to design their entire operation around this style. When Cellar West opened its doors to the public in Boulder’s Lee Hill neighborhood on December 31 of last year, it became the first brewery in Boulder to do just that.
Nichols chose the out-of-the-way north Boulder location intentionally: “We’re part of a funky little neighborhood of makers, and that was one of the things that drew me here,” he says. Inside the brewery’s unusual digs, you won’t find heaps of stainless steel or a tangled web of draft lines. Instead, the open room, which includes a small tasting area and cellar, is lined with thirteen oak barrels—a combination of red and white wine barrels. As a small start-up, Nichols contracts out time to brew his beers across town at Wild Woods Brewery. Once his brews are complete, he transfers the beers into UV-sheilding plastic tote tanks and brings them back to Cellar West, where they’re placed in designated oak barrels to ferment with wild yeast and various other spices, fruits, and hops. After that, the beers are blended in the brewery’s lone steel tank before being bottle-conditioned with Champagne yeast for an additional month.
The final result? Drinkable beers with a lot of character. Cellar West’s current line-up features a slightly funky, oak-fermented saison and a God’s Eye wild porter, which is a roasty beer that tastes of chocolate and blackberries; twenty-five pounds of the latter are added to each red wine oak barrel as the porter ferments. In addition, Nichols is currently working on a spiced pale ale that’s dry-hopped with Citra hops, as well as a black saison.
Although Nichols has plans to distribute his brews at a handful of liquor stores, restaurants, and bars along the Front Range, for now, Cellar West beers are only available for purchase in 500 ml bottles at the north Boulder tasting room.
Cellar West is open every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.
1001 Lee Hill Drive #10, Boulder, 262-719-8795