Nestled in across the street from the since demolished Butterball Plant, Wibby Brewing has been serving up German style lagers with an American twist since September, 2015. Co-owner and brewmaster Ryan Wibby joined the Longmont Observer in his taproom to talk about how it all started.
Ryan had a light bulb moment while studying chemistry in college and got his first taste of brew science in his junior year, “I realized that I didn’t have to work in a lab for the rest of my life, I could start making beer.”
Shortly after graduating, Ryan got a job in a taproom and bottling line at a local brewery for a summer. He then moved and took on the role of assistant brewer at Iron Hill Brewing. While there, he was exposed to all aspects of the process, from recipe development to brewing and packaging. Ryan worked in the Pennsylvania Dutch city of Lancaster, where German brewing traditions are celebrated. Carol Stoudt, of Stoudts Brewing Company which specializes in German craft, gave high praise to one of Iron Hill’s recipes that Ryan helped develop, maibocks; a strong pale lager. With bock’s German roots and getting recognition from the first female brewmaster since prohibition it strengthened his position on German beers. “It was really awesome to get that kind of feedback and to also explore that area,” he remembered.
Ryan traveled from Iron Hill Brewing to Ithaca Beer Company, and then to VLB Berlin, where he got his brewmaster certification and was given the challenge of brewing German recipes with American hops. He responded with a hoppy bock; a strong traditional German lager, that would evolve into his IPL, which still adorns Wibby’s menu.
With the desire to round out his brewery experience, Ryan, “looked at the list of the top ten craft breweries by size and applied to each one and number five was Deschutes Brewery.” After working for Deschutes Brewery for two years, he was presented with the opportunity to move back to Colorado and start his own brewery with his business partner and fellow Ithaca College alum, Ted Risk. In preparation for his own brewery, Ryan spent all his days off brewing in a homebrew-outfitted van he affectionately referred to as his brewing assistant, it’s still at Wibby today.
Wibby stated, “There’s this really great opportunity for traditional German brewing techniques and styles and then putting them together with American craft beer ingenuity.” This idea served as the philosophy behind Wibby Brewing and is reflected in the menu. With lagers playing a substantial role in Ryan’s industry experience, it now serves as the focus of Ryan and Ted’s brewery.
Pulling off Emery Street into the parking lot of the brewery you’re greeted by a large concrete pavilion that compliments the industrial look of brewery itself. This aesthetic is carried into the taproom with a mixture of steel and wood to offer a bright and inviting beer hall drinking experience. Two large garage doors and windows throughout let in an abundance of natural light. As you’re enjoying maibocks, dunkels or the Wibby IPL you can look through interior windows into the brewery operation. The overall feel of the space, like the beer itself, stays true to the philosophy of combining German traditions with American ingenuity.
Next week we’ll take a look at the lagers they serve up at Wibby Brewing.