A Decade of Hails and Ales: The TRVE Brewing Team Discusses Their History and Future As The Foremost Heavy Metal Brewery

TRVE Brewing has been a staple in the South Broadway neighborhood of Denver, Colorado for a decade now. It’s a landmark moment for the DIY heshers, Nick Nunns and Zach Coleman, who initially came together to build an idea for their shared love of beer styles and heavy music. Years have passed and beers have flowed; as a result, the two-man operation grew exponentially to include new partners, a full staff, and a growing community. To celebrate the momentous event, TRVE is throwing a 10th Anniversary Bacchanal on June 25th. It is also their first anniversary party in a few years, and they are expecting it to be a blowout.

The show features Denver doom dealers, Khemmis,  as headliners—Coleman is the drummer for them as well as the black/death oblivion Black Curse and Go Ahead and Die with Max and Igor Cavalera. Supporting them are the mighty solo black metal force Panopticon, one-woman black metal act, Hulder, the depraved death metal titans, Vastum, and the atmospheric alchemists in Dreadnought.

In the wake of the announcement and impending buildup, Decibel caught up with Nunns and Coleman, as well as other staff and regulars, to discuss the legacy, impact, and future of TRVE Brewing. Their taproom is not an ideal place to conduct an interview. Regulars and metalheads situate themselves at the end of the long bar while others push through the long corridor to the back of the room in order to snag delicious, savory food from Music City Hot Chicken, a Nashville-style chicken restaurant TRVE shares the taproom with. This, of course, is all while extreme metal booms from the speakers. Instead of the taproom’s extreme metal ambiance, Nunns offered up he and his wife Erin’s apartment above TRVE as a place to share stories and have a few beers.

Pick up tickets for the show now through this location. Also, please consider donating to this GoFundMe for TRVE Brewing’s taproom manager, Ben Myers, who was recently struck by a vehicle. He is amassing numerous medical bills and could use everyone’s help. 

“Zach and I met basically when I opened the brewery,” Nunns states. “We hadn’t known each other before then. I used to be an engineer and I fucking hated it. My job was miserable, and I just needed to do something different.”

Nunns and Coleman met soon after TRVE opened its doors. “Zach had just moved up from Denton and was trying to get his foot into the beer scene here, and he was a regular. We started shooting the shit and hanging out more outside bartending or brewing.” Nunns explains.

Coleman adds, “I had finished my formal education in Denton and was living in a very small town in Texas home brewing on the side just to give me something else to do. I was entering all these competitions and doing really well. Because I lived in a really small place, I didn’t have anybody else to see if it was any good.”

Coleman soon found himself in Denver grinding his way into Colorado’s burgeoning brewery scene. “For the first year, I was working full time in Colorado Springs [as a technical writer]. I would get off work then go volunteer at a brewery, go home, sleep for like 4 hours, and do it all again. Then I was able to get hired at a small brewery in Broomfield. They brought me on, taught me the ropes—I had my foot in the door at that point. When I was off there, I would come to TRVE to drink beer,” He details.

Nick Nunns

The two began collaborating soon after meeting on beer and brewery ideas. Nunns brought in Coleman for a “liquid résumé.” The two began brewing a batch of beer that would eventually become an early classic for TRVE, Eastern Candle. From this drink and their limited capital, Nunns and Coleman began building out a beer program. Between their experiences brewing at home and their love of heavy metal, TRVE began to slowly evolve into the force it is today. The taproom has become a mecca for heavy metal and beer enthusiasts alike. Coleman brews a number of different styles of beer. It, like the business, has slowly morphed and grown too.

“The beer program started out by making a full lineup of clean beers,” Coleman explains. “Then after the first year, we started experimenting with mixed culture, mixed fermentation. We saw an opportunity to grow that program because we were kind of at maximum potential with the fermenters here. We just didn’t have space, but we could add barrels and do sour and Brett beer.”

Zach Coleman

Coleman soon saw his goals of expanding a clean beer project could be done by building out their sours and mixed culture beers. As that grew, TRVE began to grow the clean beer side once more. Now, the taproom features a curated list of delicious steady fixtures and unique, flavorful rotating versions of clean and mixed culture beers often named as homages for their favorite bands or music they are currently hooked on.

In recent years, as the business side has continued to grow, Nunns and Coleman have brought more people into the fold to improve their reach and drive new endeavors. One of the biggest additions is Nick’s wife, Erin. She herself carries an extensive résumé including some of the Southeast’s most prominent breweries and independent contract work with many others.

“Before starting at TRVE, I started my beer career ten years ago at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. I was their third employee—friends of the Head Brewer and the owners at the time. I left about a year and a half before the sale of Wicked Weed and moved to Burial, where I was head of marketing for two and a half years,” Erin explains.

Erin and Nick met during her time at Wicked Weed. They began dating in 2016 and Erin soon found herself moving to Denver and doing independent consulting for other breweries until coming onto the TRVE team about a year later. Erin says, “We got to work with some of the coolest people in the industry and all our friends doing freelance marketing and PR. Then, about a year after, I realized I could keep doing contract work for people in the industry, or I could help push this rock up this hill and do something that was going to be much more of my future—help TRVE learn to grow into everything they can be. That is what I specialize in.”

Of course, as the business side has grown and changed, the beers have as well. Trying to press the team on their favorite beers over the years is like trying to pick a favorite child, but the Nunns and Coleman were able to at least narrow it down. It’s much more than just the taste of the beer that drives their picks.

“I have a few that stand out to me for, personal reasons,” Coleman reveals. “Eastern Candle is the first beer here, so that’s important, but a big one for me is Life’s Trade, which is a Saison that we fermented in puncheons. It was the first beer we ever brewed at Acid Temple. It’s a wood-fermented Saison that’s dry-hopped. We don’t make it anymore, but I want to bring that back. It has been such a big driver of the beer program.”

Coleman continues, “Cursed is huge because that was the first beer we made with our house culture that we have spent several years putting together. That culture has been going unchanged and allowed to develop over time for the last seven years. Stout O))) is another big one because that was a day-one type beer that I tried very hard not to mess with because I think it’s an excellent beer.”

Coleman prides himself in his work with local suppliers to pick out and even create ingredients that go into TRVE’s beer. He and a maltster custom roast malts that are specific to certain beers and are delivered in specific windows so the ingredients are fresh and unique. Nick’s pick tells a different story.

“I think Cold is a beer that we definitely have a lot of reason to be proud of. I think it’s exceptional, and I’ve always loved it. Even from day one, that beer was a perfect example of Zach’s ability to conceive a beer and get it 95% there from day one,” Nick states.

“Personally, from a marketing perspective,” he continues. “I think it’s a fucking home run. It’s the dumbest name for a beer—I’m so proud of that—nobody else has something like that. Other people have maybe two-word beers that involve ‘cold,’ but to just call a beer Cold, was perfect. Then it’s an At The Gates reference too.

For Erin, it’s pretty straightforward. If the brewery can nail a lager, it’s all she needs to know about the place. “The lager game of TRVE is probably the most impressive to me. It’s something that, if I go to any brewery and I don’t know anything about them, if they have a lager on tap, I’ll go for that first. It’s like going for the jugular. You’re going to find out real quick whether or not they’re worth their salt because there’s nothing to hide behind. You’re only as good as your malt and TRVE is really good because of their malt.”

Yet, for TRVE’s successes as an acclaimed brewery and a growing business, their biggest triumph may be in their position as a safe haven for Denver’s communities—heavy metal or not. Nunns and Coleman come from a heavy metal background and are familiar with the struggles of being bullied or seen as an outcast. TRVE’s proximity to venues such as Hi-Dive, Mutiny Information Café, and H/Q (formerly Three Kings Tavern) makes it a spot to flock to before metal shows. TRVE also prides itself on taking care of its employees and creating a safe and positive place to work and make a living.

“We feel like it’s more important than ever to create a safe space for people who are outside the norm. I grew up a bullied, weird, post-emo, post-hardcore kid in the early aughts—that shit sucks.” Nunns reveals. “We want to create a home for those people. You’re safe here, we’ll take care of you. We’ll make sure that this is a place where you can feel welcome and normal.”

“I will say when I’m thinking of a beer to make,” Coleman says. “I’m imagining our regulars and I think, ‘Are they going to like this beer?’ It gives me a good baseline for where to land because, at the end of the day, it is a neighborhood brewery that has a wider reach. Yet, I want to brew for the people that are coming in every day and make them happy. So it is a safe space, but also one that they’re pumped to drink the beer in.”

Shane McCarthy (WayfarerStormkeepLykotonon) and Tim Espiritu are TRVE’s most tenured employees. When asked about their experiences, McCarthy says, “TRVE, before working there, always kind of seemed to be flying a flag for metal and its culture here in Denver. Having spent several years here now I’m just glad to have the chance to help out bringing some events like this [upcoming show] together. This town has a dedicated and eclectic base of folks into heavy music and it’s cool to be a part of something to help bring more of that to them, and hopefully introduce new folks to all of its avenues as well when they come into this place.”

Espiritu adds, “TRVE is a special place to work and be a part of because we don’t compromise on who we are and what we represent. For 10 years, TRVE has been blazing its own path while ripping the very best black, death, and extreme metal out there. To work with people with such a clear and unwavering vision, integrated with a true love for music is a really special and rare thing, and I’m proud to be a part of it. The journey is long and we’re just getting started.”

The love and community extend to those on the other side of the bar as well. Matt Klisz is a regular at TRVE and a friend of the staff and owners. The taproom has been a hub and hangout spot for him for years. “This place has been a home away from home for me, and it has for a lot of us. Every time I would come here, I would meet someone new every time. They’re all my homies now,” Klisz says. “It’s really more than it seems. The beer is good. People come here for the beer, but this doesn’t exist anywhere else. I’ve been to metal bars all over the United States. You can think about stuff in Brooklyn or LA, but this place is a pretty straightforward, awesome, metal place.”

As TRVE Brewing prepares for the beginning of their next decade, they sit firmly fixed as the preeminent metal brewery in Colorado and the United States. Their reputation as a heavy metal haven and purveyors of high-quality beers have them in an exciting position to grow their business and products in the craft brewing industry.

“I am in the middle of slightly retooling the mixed fermentation side of things. We’ll have a new lineup of beers coming out this year for that. Then we have been expanding more into spontaneous beer, so we will have more releases on that front,” Coleman says about TRVE’s upcoming beer prospects. “We have been growing the clean side too. I’m hoping with the growth of the brewery to expand the lager program exponentially as well.”

Of course, Nunns and Coleman are looking beyond the scope of their taproom as well. “I think in the next two years, there are going to be a lot of great things that are going to be coming around,” Nunns teases. “We have some exciting projects that are right on the precipice of talking about.”

Their impending anniversary show, in a way, signals the beginning of their next chapter. Coleman and Nunns, along with the help of McCarthy built out a show to be remembered. “Honestly, we have to give a big shout out to Shane, He’s so ingrained, between being in Wayfarer and all of his bands and being a die-hard metalhead. He’s a perfect guy to grow into a position of helping us maintain a connection to the metal community outside of what we’re capable of ourselves. “I think all of those bands come together to just really create a nice, diverse lineup that appeals to a lot of a wide swath of people.”

Coleman on the show says, “It feels like old Denver metal shows with a very diverse lineup. You have Dreadnought doing their proggy metal weirdness. Vastum—meat and potatoes death metal. That’s my favorite meal. Hulder bringing in some black metal and Panopticon doing their folk black metal. Then we [Khemmis] end it with some melodic doom metal.”

The 10th Anniversary Bacchanal is set to be a great time for TRVE and Denver heavy metal as a whole. As the community and TRVE’s employees come together to celebrate the brewery and all of its accomplishments, the operation itself continues to hone its craft and spread its reach making it a force to be reckoned with in the craft brewing industry in the coming years.