5 Questions with Jeff Zearfoss and Grant Goodwiler of Local Relic
Local Relic has been a mainstay here in Colorado Springs over the past few years, crafting hundreds upon hundreds of special one-off batches of beer, all of which pretty much defy style-guidelines. Taking root in the Carter Payne church, Local Relic has transformed the space( that was effectively ruined by Green Man Taproom) into a sanctuary for interesting beers, local food and art.
We decided to dig a little deeper than the usual “mission statement” and find out what really makes some of the faces behind Local Relic tick.
How did you get your start in the beer industry? Any early growing pains you want to share?
Jeff: My formal training is in the wine world, but my first love has always been beer. It's sort of like a different dialect of the same language -- the verbiage, the theory, the sensory training, so much of it crosses over. Where so much of the wine world has struggled to make their products approachable by the masses, the beer industry has always been accessible. But it's fun to take this everyman drink and apply the old-world philosophy of balance, complexity, and the idea of the fields dictating what you produce, and prove to people that the limits of beer are virtually non-existent. The biggest challenge for Local Relic has been in trying to allocate scarce resources to continue to further growth and secure a sustainable future for the business.
Grant: I got my start in the brewing industry via Rocky Mountain Brewing Company. I volunteered 3 years there, mostly doing brew on-premise (helping people recreate their favorite beers without a kit) and helping brew on their 10 bbl system and a variety of other tasks. I eventually landed a gig at Phantom Canyon as a cellarman, finally getting paid but that was short-lived as I got let go soon after the expansion happened. I always knew I wanted to brew beer and Jeff and Mel knew that’s what I wanted as well, so after a few “not so legal” beer dinners they saw that I was talented enough to brew some "out of the stylistic guideline" beers, they trusted that I could make some interesting and approachable beers. it’s been a wild ride but I can’t thank them enough for believing that you don’t have to have flagship beers.
What's your favorite beer recently? (Not your own)
Jeff: My goal is to try all the beers, so it's impossible to pick just one. I love the explosion of creativity taking place at breweries of all sizes. When we started, people thought we were crazy for not producing flagships, we had dozens of people tell us that it was only a matter of time before we settled on a few favorites to turn into our flagships. They didn't think that we were really serious about not brewing any flagships—but here we are—760 unique creations later. It's been so fun to get to visit all the local breweries, tap houses, and liquor stores and get to try new beers every single day.
Grant: My favorite beers of the moment and always are Belgians. I love everything from Fantôme, La Chouffe, Cantillion, Drie Fonteinen. [Each has] such a rich history of beer that I’ve never seen recreated in the states. I’d try myself but the secrets are kept under lock and key.
If you had to pair only one beer with food for the rest of your life, which would it be and what food would you pair it with?
Jeff: Unpopular opinion alert (but it's getting popular, apparently?) Cleanest, simplest, crispest lager. I know it's a macro, but Asahi Super Dry is an always safe choice that is crisp and refreshing, it resets the palate and then gets out-of-the-way. And I wouldn't even struggle to eat sushi every day to go with it. In a similar vein, I'm digging all of the brut styles, and can't wait to see Chris' (Pikes Peak Brewing) lager house open downtown.
Grant: This sounds like a death row meal but if I had to pair one beer with food it would be Odell Woodcut #2 with a burnt-ends sandwich.
What are your thoughts on the impact of hazy IPAs on the beer industry?
Jeff: I think for a long time, it seemed there was a competition both among brewers to see who could drive IBUs the highest, and among consumers to see who could enjoy (or feign enjoyment of) more and more kick-in-the-teeth-bitter IPAs. I love the diversity of styles and the resulting creativity that the expansion of hazy beers has brought. Hops are amazingly interesting, and every variety is an opportunity to experience something new, and since different hops shine in different styles, there's more of an opportunity to try hops at their best. I'd like to see limits on the resulting IPA scope creep (I'm looking at you, milkshakes), if a beer drinks like an IPA, call it that, don't just piggyback on the IPA name because it's popular. Maybe I'm a traditionalist, maybe I'm just old. That's a whole different story.
Grant: I love hazy’s. I think they’re an approachable way to IPAs. from what I’ve seen, people who don’t like IPAs love hazys. It’s the late addition hops and dry hopping that give you a great representation of the hops you’re using without the bitterness. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with and love West Coast IPAs, I just think you can isolate the hops just ever so with New England/hazy styles. All to say, I don’t think it’s a trend, hazy’s are here for the foreseeable future.
Are you listening to any great podcasts recently?
Jeff: Pretty much anything politics, 538 and NPR in particular. There's too much news to follow all of it, but NPR does a good job collecting the relevant bits, and 538 does a brilliant job with insight and analysis, and it feeds my data-driven nerd side.
Grant: I’ve always been a fan of comedy Bang Bang, This American Life, and Harmontown, which I've listened to since the beginning. Recently i’m into Last Podcast on the Left, Reply All, Every Little Thing, and Doughboys. There’s so much content out there. I should really listen to a beer podcast but i can’t quite find one that suits me.
If you’re looking for an excuse to “go to church,” check out Local Relic’s Monthly Beer Dinners [Link here].