Rockslide brewer in Grand Junction, Colorado, teams up with Casey Brewing & Blending |

Rockslide brewer in Grand Junction, Colorado, teams up with Casey Brewing & Blending

Kristian Hartter
Free Press Opinion Column
Zorba Proteau checks the sugar content of the wort for the collaboration beer he is making with Troy Casey (not pictured).
Kristian Hartter |


This month you will likely find a pilsner in my hand.

Not only is it the quintessential clean and light beer, but right now there is a trifecta of them available from local brewers.

First off is the German-style “Chill Pils” from Kannah Creek Brewing Company. It is the lightest of the three, with the mildest hoppyness and the least carbonation.

Palisade Brewing Company has a Czech version simply called “Pilsner.” It displays the spicy Sazz hop character and full Pilsner malt flavor one expects from the style.

Finally we have the “Vintage” from Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery. This one is an American pils and it really highlights the floral hops employed in its build.

Each beer is well built and available for a limited time.

There is something about a craft brew collaboration that is quite romantic. The idea of two brewers, each accomplished, coming together and combining forces to create something heretofore unknown is exciting. When that beer is fermented in two distinct ways it becomes doubly intriguing. Thanks to the Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery and Casey Brewing & Blending, that is exactly what we can look forward to in the Grand Valley very soon.

By 8:30 a.m. on brew day (May 27), Zorba Proteau, head brewer at the Rockslide, had already been brewing for more than two hours. The same day Troy Casey, brewer and owner of Casey Brewing & Blending, traveled from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction. He parked his rather unwieldy trailer close enough to the restaurant that the finished wort (unfermented beer) could be pumped into a large tank. Why would a brewer haul beer all that way?

“Zorba is brewing some of the best beer in Colorado,” Troy said.

It is clear that Zorba holds Troy in high regard as well.

“I am really excited to see what Troy does with his portion of the wort,” he added.

After meeting a few years ago at a brewer’s conference, Zorba and Troy recently reconnected and agreed to collaborate.

“I made a point to head out to the Rockslide and have lunch,” Troy said. “The beers were excellent … Zorba builds great, hoppy beers.”

From there the pair designed a hop-bursted, dry-hopped beer that Troy will make into a farmhouse ale and Zorba will make into an IPA. Hop-bursting is a method that adds all of the hops for the beer in the final minutes of brewing, emphasizing the flavor and especially the aroma. While both will start with the same wort, the difference will be in the fermentation process.

Troy specializes in old-world, open fermentation, which happens in vessels that are left exposed to the environment. As opposed to simply allowing the microbes in the air to invade the beer, Troy inoculates the wort with a special blend of yeasts and microorganisms designed to produce a complex and exciting finished product. This cocktail of microbes takes over the wort and defends its territory from any unwanted interlopers. The beer will ferment in about a week, and then it will be transferred to two smaller barrels for further conditioning. By contrast, Proteau’s fermentation process is more modern.

Using the same wort, Zorba will pump his portion into a fermentation tank, sealing it off in a temperature-controlled environment. Then he will add a single strain of ale yeast, which has been selected for its clean and predictable beer-making properties. It will be carefully monitored to ensure that the ideal conditions are being maintained. Zorba will test it periodically until it is ready for transfer into a conditioning tank and then to kegs for holding and eventually serving.

Starting from the same ingredients and applying two disparate fermentation techniques will produce beers that are both in the 6.5% ABV range. The two versions will both eventually be available across the bar at the Rockslide. Look for the Rockslide version starting in the next few weeks ($4 a pint, no happy hour pricing) and the Casey Brewing & Blending version this autumn. It will be an uncommon opportunity to see how much difference the fermentation itself makes to a beer.


Kristian Hartter is a beer advocate. He has lived in the Grand Valley for 13 years and believes the craft beer culture here has almost unlimited potential. Kristian is the founder of Grand Valley Beer Geeks (find the group on Facebook), the PR officer for the Bookcliff Home Brew Club and the producer/co-host of Beer Geek Radio on KAFM 88.1.

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