Peter Bouckaert: A Departure that Led to New Beginnings

Following a decade at Rodenbach in Belgium, and two more decades helping a green New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado, expand to have nationwide distribution, Peter Bouckaert said he missed being involved in the actual brewing process.
“I had not realized that I was in so many in meetings,” Bouckaert said. “There is so much I could have been brewing up, and it’s just so much fun to do.”
So he announced his departure from New Belgium to start a new career at a smaller Fort Collins brewery. Thus began Purpose Brewing and Cellars, which just celebrated its second anniversary.
“I have learned so much that I probably forgot 90%,” Bouckaert said. “Not really true, but there is a lot that you unconsciously know that suddenly applies again. It’s fun to apply all of this now in a small brewery.”
Bouckaert combines his knowledge, experience and creativity when brewing up new beers.
He’s inspired by oak trees, and just as an acorn grows from nutrients, minerals, and water into a tree, so does Purpose and Cellars use ingredients found in nature to make great beer.
“The metamorphose that happens from an acorn to an oak to a barrel to a beer is what inspires me,” he said. “It’s not obvious beer is related to an acorn. It is — for some people — not obvious that a barrel is related to beer.”
Right now, the veteran brewer is working on research projects with the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University to look into foreign wood flavors.
“[What] I enjoy the most, [is] customers who are inspired by the beer are creating new ideas that inspire me,” Bouckaert said. “Ideas keep on morphing into the next idea, which is so much fun.”
Purpose Brewing doesn’t just offer a tasting room, but also brewery tours, cooperage classes and food and beer pairing events.
“If you really want to learn [in the cooperage classes], you leave with knowledge on how to fix any leaky barrel, or even how to put a barrel back together,” Bouckaert said.
The $30 fee for the class includes both an initial demonstration, with Bouckaert showing the class how to fix a barrel, and a second segment, where guests can have a hands-on experience working with cooperage tools.
“But it’s bigger than that for me; it’s one of the things we forgot as humankind as so many things in history,” Bouckaert said. “I feel connected to the more than 1,000 generations that did it before us when I teach it.
“And it’s just a damned good excuse to drink a beer while hammering on a barrel.”
For the second anniversary celebration, along with releasing bottles, Bouckaert hopes to surprise people with flavor combinations they won’t expect.
“I want to have my next Smoeltrekker [a series the brewery runs] to be the next precious one. I want to keep on sharing my good barrels with other brewers,” Bouckaert said. “But the most earth-shattering thing I want to do is to improve your life, one beer at a time.”

Photo: Brewtography Project

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