Craft Brewer’s Experienceship: A Q&A with Rick Abitol of Brewery Rickoli

Brewery RickoliAs part of our Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program, craft brewers who have received a loan through the program can apply for a Brewing and Business Experienceship. Experienceship brewers receive extended coaching and mentoring from a variety of Samuel Adams experts, a trip to Boston to visit our Boston Brewery – where we brew a collaboration beer – and the chance to join us at beer industry events.

This year’s Experienceship winner was Rick Abitbol, brewmaster of Brewery Rickoli, a craft brewery based in Wheat Ridge, CO that focuses on brewing delicious, gluten-reduced beers. We had the chance to sit and chat with Rick about his passion for brewing and how Brewing the American Dream has helped him pursue his dream of opening his own brewery.

Q: What’s the story behind the name of Brewery Rickoli?

A: It comes from a nickname derived from “Jeff Spicoli,” a character in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a nickname I earned years ago. My wife bought me custom pub glasses that said “Rickoli Tavern” on them and it really planted the seed – I thought maybe someday I would own my own brewery.

Q: Brewery Rickoli focuses on reducing the amount of gluten in your beer. Why is this important to you and what are the challenges of this approach?

A: The drive for us to brew gluten-removed beers is about changing the stigma that gluten-free equals bad taste. Removing the gluten doesn’t affect the taste of our beers. We can make great beer to accommodate people’s needs and eating/drinking preferences, and not sacrifice quality.

Q: What is Brewery Rickoli’s flagship beer?

A: Totally Eye-P-A. It’s a West Coast style IPA at 6.8% ABV and 165 IBUs – we utilize a lot of hop bursting techniques.

Q: What is your favorite part of owning your own brewery?

A: Brewing is really satisfying – when I can create a beer that people latch on to and it becomes their favorite beer, it makes me feel needed, like a necessary part of society. We’re providing a place in our community that is every bit as valuable as the post office, the grocery store, or the gas station. The community has really embraced us.

Q: How has the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program helped support your brewery?

A: The support from Sam Adams was crucial for us and enabled us to open our doors. We needed the loan from Brewing the American Dream to finish building our cooler, put in our tap system, and to buy kegs.

Q: What have you taken away from your Brewing and Business Experienceship?

A: A new and more positive direction for growth. Our eyes were opened pretty wide – we learned a few things that really needed to be taken care of right away. We were also reassured that what we’re doing is right, but that we just need to focus a little bit better.

Q: Tell us a bit about the collaboration beer you brewed with our brewers back in May.  What was the best part of that experience?

The best part of brewing our collaboration was the actual collaborating. It was exciting to me as a brewer to work with Grant to develop the recipe and then go to Boston to brew the beer. We also will always remember the individual attention we were given by everyone at Sam Adams. We felt pretty special to be at your amazing facility and to get to talk and work with some of the most dedicated and passionate people in the industry!

More on the collaboration beer: Oats McGoats is our take on a gluten-reduced American stout.  We brewed this beer with flaked rye, oat malt and golden naked oats. The result is a full-bodied beer, accented by earthy and spicy flavors, and a hint of roasty and coffee notes.

Here’s where you can find the beer in the Denver area:

Lucky Pie Pizza and Taphouse

World of Beer Belmar

World of Beer Cherry Creek

The Sink Boulder

West End Tap House

Colorado Plus

Parrys Pizza (All 3 Locations)

Right Coast Pizza

Colorado Keg House

Backcountry Pizza & Tap House