Like many craft beer aficionados, Asher discovered the excitement of homebrewing while in college -- but he took that passion further than most during his years at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
"I suppose I went a little overboard," he recalls. "I actually taught some homebrewing classes, which forced me to learn a lot more. I had to read a lot of stuff to have something to say every week for a couple of hours."
When he moved to Colorado after completing his undergraduate degree, he got a job at Golden City Brewery to practice brewing on a larger scale. He also enrolled in the business administration program at CU Boulder's Leeds School of Business to develop his acumen for the less physical aspects of running a brewery.
"After I got my MBA, I brewed at RedFish in downtown Boulder through a sublease of the brewery there," Asher says. "When RedFish sold, and I was out of a gig, I started writing my business plan. It took about a year to complete the business plan, get the money, find a location, and put the brewery together."
He decided to focus on brewing organic craft beer for several reasons, not the least of which was Boulder's health-conscious population. "Organic food is something I've always believed in," Asher explains. "Conventional farming pollutes the environment so badly, and it can't be good for us to be ingesting those pesticides."
After a little research, Asher began to believe the organic bent would be better for his yeast as well, which along with molds and mushrooms, are classified as members of the kingdom fungi. "A couple of studies suggested that the fungicides on hops and barley going into your wort can affect fermentation," he continues. "Another study said that you'll get better fermentation, attenuation, color, and clarity with a healthier yeast cycle if you don't have fungicides present."
Asher said he ran across yet another study, this one by Coors, on the effects of pesticides from hops on beer. "They found that there are naturally occurring antioxidants in beer," he says, "and when pesticides are present, these antioxidants basically cling to the pesticides and don't do their job scavenging oxygen. That basically reduces the shelf life of the beer."
By February 2010, Asher Brewing Company received organic certification for all of their recipes, making them the first all-organic brewery in the state. Their portfolio is made up of five mainstays -- including best-sellers Green Bullet Organic IPA and Tree Hugger Organic Amber -- as well as seasonal brews.
Current seasonals include Café Kölsch, brewed with Conscious Coffees, and Asher's newest recipe, Hempin' Ain't Easy, brewed with 50 pounds of certified organic hemp seeds from Evo Hemp along with plenty of organic Simcoe hops.
Asher says creating new beers frequently requires a bit of reverse engineering. "If we find organic something, we will figure out how to make a beer out of," he adds. But he's also inspired by tasting other breweries' beers and experimenting with what's popular.
Asher Brewing Company produced just under 900 barrels of beer on their 15-barrel system in 2017 and is on track to brew a similar volume this year. In addition to the Gunbarrel tasting room, the brewery distributes to restaurants and bars throughout Colorado including Boulder, Denver, Longmont and Fort Collins.
Favorite beers: "My favorites right now are our Café Kölsch," Asher says, "and Ginger Bomb Ale, our ginger seasonal. I don't get out much, but I had a pretty good beer from Eddyline recently. I think it was the Crank Yanker IPA."
Challenges: Market competition is made that much more difficult when you're restricted to organic ingredients. "Trying to keep up with current trends and stay organic is pretty challenging," Asher explains. "Getting organic hops is the most difficult. A lot of times I have to improvise on what hops to use and trade something out."
Opportunities: As the only all-organic brewery in Colorado, Asher says he is seeing a lot of opportunity in the farm-to-table movement. "A lot of these types of restaurants have been seeking us out," he adds.
Needs: "It would be nice to have a little more traffic in the tasting room," Asher says. "We were the first brewery in Gunbarrel but now there are six. That makes it a little more difficult to get people in here."