If you know NoCo beer — or Colorado beer, for that matter — you’ve likely heard the name Grimm Brothers. Their award-winning brews and fairytale-inspired characters are recognizable at first sight and at first sip. That’s thanks in large part to Head Brewer Laura Pilato.
Brewing at home for seven years and at Grimm for about four has provided Laura with plenty of hands-on experience. She explained, “When [my husband and I] were brewing at home, we entered several competitions and pro-ams. I’d gotten to brew on Aleworks’ system twice through that and found out I love this. And I thought, ‘I could really do this.’”
She started in the Grimm taproom, pouring beer and volunteering in the brewery as often as she could. With a Beer Judge Certification Program under her belt along with years of homebrewing and pro-am awards, she was a shoe-in for Head Brewer when the spot opened up.
“In the beginning, it sort of felt like people were testing me,” she said. “That could have been because I’m a woman or it could have just been because I was new.”
“Laura knows her [stuff],” Scott Smith, Director of Sales and Marketing, chimed in. “There’s no one here who would test her now and if any of us saw someone else testing her, we’ve got her back.”
Head Brewer Laura Pilato and Director of Sales and Marketing Scott Smith
While Laura manages, organizes, plans, schedules, develops recipes and brews in the brewhouse, Scott directs all the sales and marketing at Grimm. Together, they’re two parts of a team that acts more like a family.
“We’re a small group of people but it’s not about the number, it’s about the passion of the people we have,” Scott said. “With just about 12 employees total, we’re here late nights, we did all the renovations in the taproom ourselves, we’re here painting, making sure everything’s always ready and everybody’s willing to throw in. We’ve all found a place that doesn’t seem like work.”
“Because we love beer,” Laura laughed.
“It’s about the beer, the passion and the people,” said Scott. “That’s who we are as a company.”
And that familial personality is exactly what continues to set Grimm Brothers apart from other breweries both regionally and statewide.
“One of the things that initially drew me to the brewing industry was how happy everyone seemed, but as I’ve gotten in, I’ve realized some people aren’t,” Scott explained. “I know what’s it’s like to work for a brewery where everybody is happy. Seeing that not showcased at other places is kind of a turnoff.” So that’s exactly what they’re doing in the Grimm Brothers taproom.
He went on to say, “There are 300 breweries in Colorado, 26 in Fort Collins, eight in Loveland with two more opening this year and another one opening next year. It’s a very competitive market so we’re staying relevant by having a new, fun space for people to hang out.”
And if you haven’t stopped in the newly renovated taproom, we definitely recommend making the trip. The kid-friendly and dog-friendly space is huge. It offers a bright, welcoming space complete with couches, darts, Stump (also known as Hammerschlagen) which benefits Loveland Kiwanis, beer barrels, handmade barrel chandeliers, hand-welded tables and custom murals by local artist Robbie Blum with even more to come.
“Everything we did in here, we did by hand,” Scott said. “That’s part of the passion we put into both the beer and how we present ourselves.”
And while we love the new taproom, we don’t think that’s the only factor setting Grimm apart from other craft beer competition. It’s also the beer itself.
“We do a lot of historical styles that nobody does,” said Scott. “For example, Snow Drop is a Köttbusser which is something only one other brewery in the United States does. And Little Red Cap is hands down our best-selling beer but a lot of people don’t even know what an Altbier is. We put [Little Red Cap] in GABF six times; it’s won a medal four times, two of which were gold. It’s our most accredited, but it’s known by its name more so than its style.”
Laura and her brewers Brittany Bennett and Guy McConnell have also been playing around with a Braggot. “The one person in our brewhouse who is not a female is Guy McConnell,” Scott explained. “He’s opening the Laughing Leprechaun Meadery here in Loveland and he’s brought in a few homebrew meads that have all been fantastic.” With Guy’s honey fermentation expertise, Laura and the team put together a Braggot that had a dark beer base and added orange blossom honey — and there are more experiments to come! “Only certain places can do a Braggot and do it really well. We happen to have an in with the guy who knows mead so we’re playing with it a bit, seeing if we can create a buzz,” Scott laughed.
According to Laura, her favorite styles to make right now are lagers and IPAs — both of which Grimm has on tap. “IPAs are fun to do because I love to drink them, but they are a pain to make. They’re a sort of labor of love and hate because they’re so messy.”
On the topic of brewery labors, Laura insisted this isn’t a job for everyone. On being a female brewer in a male-dominated field, she explained, “This really is just a job, but it’s not a job for everyone — women or men. I know lots of guys who would not be able to do this job and lots of women who could or could not as well. In the end, I let my beer speak for itself; I don’t need a protest sign.”
In 2018 and 2019, we look forward to several annual happenings and a couple new events in the taproom. The eight-year anniversary party is scheduled for July, Loveland Oktoberfest will happen in the fall, they hosted the Irish Olympics on St. Patrick’s Day and will also host New Beer’s Eve in April with a follow-up prohibition repeal party in early December. Follow the team on Facebook for event updates.
Also in the near future, you can look forward to seeing more additions and more custom murals in the taproom, as well as new, brighter can designs so you can take more Grimm color home.
As far as the beer goes, you can expect two different Bleeding Heart beers for Valentine’s Day 2019. And over the summer, Laura’s husband Abe Pilato will be joining the team and taking over the barrel program, too! If you want to get a taste of these aged blends, Laura’s new experiments and everything else Grimm is offering, stop by the Loveland taproom ASAP.
To learn more about Northern Colorado breweries, check out The Ultimate Guide to 20 Craft Breweries from Greeley to Loveland, Colorado and The Ultimate Guide to Fort Collins Craft Breweries.