Thursday, November 22, 2018

TRVE, Distribution and the Betterment of the Denver Beer Scene

Sometimes it's the subtlest things breweries do that make a huge difference. While TRVE was busy wowing drinkers with its Life's Trade saison, Cursed pale ale and host of barrel-aged sours, owner Nick Nunns was also putting into place High Plains Beer Distribution, his company that brings in out-of-state breweries for limited time frames, typically around events.

Maybe you caught High Plains in action at places like Freshcraft during Great American Beer Festival, pouring gems from Alvarado Street, Great Notion and J. Wakefield that don't normally grace the menus of Colorado beer bars. But maybe you didn't notice that in the flood of rare tappings that week, some of which were made possible by other breweries with similar short-term licenses and relationships with auteurs from around the country.

But Nunns and High Plains were on front-and-center display two weeks ago, when the same distribution license allowed him to put on a one-day tapping of Other Half Brewing, a 4-year-old Brooklyn brewery that is making some of the most complex sours and imperial stouts in the U.S. Crowds packed TRVE on an otherwise plain Saturday, and patrons who got the chance to sample Droppin' Millibars (pictured below with an Other Half triple IPA) — an imperial stout with toasted cacao nibs, vanilla, Ceylon cinnamon and coffee — may never look at imperial stouts that way again. No kidding; it was that good.

The idea of forming a distributorship first came to Nunns two years ago, when he was trying to scheme how to get his friends from North Carolina's Burial Brewing in for a tapping. He expanded that temporary license into High Plains, struck up more business relationships and now has the ability to put some of the great breweries outside of Colorado on at his SoBo brewery when they want.

To those outside the beer industry, the idea of showing off competitors' goods in a way that overshadows your own work temporarily may seem outlandish. But to Nunns, the idea is simple: Promote good beer made by good people.

"We are brewers, and we want to do right by other brewers, especially brewers who are our friends," he said in an interview at Freshcraft during GABF week. "We're trying to make it easy to get them out here."

As of late September, 15 breweries had signed on with High Plains. When they're out here for other reasons — think Big Beers in Breckenridge or the recent Shelton Brothers Festival — chances are up you'll be able to get them without buying a festival ticket.

Nunns doesn't have plans to be the guy that is getting these beers into stores and bars on a weekly basis. But as the three-tiered system for beer distribution gets blurrier by the year, he's going to be the guy who makes sure the Three Taverns and Arizona Wildernesses of the world are just a little more available to the people who care for craft beer (like the two beer geeks pictured below with an Other Half MMM Fruit) and have been calling out for them.

"I think everybody's trying to find unique business opportunities and do what's best for the beer," he said. "I'm not looking to screw anyone over. I'm looking to do what's best for consumers and to do what's best for the brewers."

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