To sum up the past few months of bopping around the state and talking to anyone willing is a pretty difficult task and doesn’t give justice to the diverse perspectives I took in. Regardless, with a mission to begin an inquiry into how the different metropolitan areas of Colorado differ in microbrewery culture, I did find some jumping off points for conversation…
Colorado itself is a hub of culture, taking in new people from all around the states to create a beautiful and eclectic environment. With a large brewery like Coors really establishing itself in the Rockies post prohibition, smaller breweries have recently taken back a serious market share, reviving the spirit of early America.
Boulder emerged as some of the pioneers of craft and houses the Brewers Association, a strong advocate for small companies. With Boulder Beer opening early and Avery about to turn 21, this city has long been an incubator of exploration. Also a town of dedicated foodies, it has now become a great place for matching beer and food as well as well as catering to the two passions. With brewpubs like FATE, BRU, West Flanders, and Mountain Sun, the quality of food needs to be able to match the various brews. Hannah Lloyd at FATE mentioned how the biggest goal of their operations is to get people on-site and involved. FATE has also valueed the mentality of collaboration from day 1 and it has paid dividends for them, as attendees at Collaboration Fest about a month ago were able to see how far the brewing company has come, pouring multiple collabs at a large table. To transition out of Boulder with Collab Fest, the event was a perfect celebration of the type of ideology that Colorado brewers embody. Companies from all over the state showcased one-time only beers for imbibers.
In one of the first conversations I had, Travis Fields remarked how breweries in Fort Collins were great examples of how to work together to promote all beer in the town. With a bike trail that winds around the small city, it is more than possible to hit most of the companies in a single day (granted you don’t get hung up at one of your favorites). With the iconic Fat Tire logo now found everywhere, New Belgium loves to encourage active lifestyles, including traveling around on the Tour de Fat, targeted at ten cities across the country this year. With an incredible sour program, the large microbrewery has the ability to experiment and hold on to older versions of beers like La Folie for education purposes. With a brewery like Funkwerks producing a strong saison and other Belgian-style beers, Fort Collins helped grow that movement within the state for a larger audience. Peter Bouckaert, a magician of a brewer at New Belgium, teamed up with Jason Yester at Trinity to make 10 Minutes of Pleasure awhile back, as the brewpub in Colorado Springs loves to explore what can happen in barrel.
Also in Fort Collins is a brewery that really engages local charities and promotes education: Odell. This company has helped begin the fermentation science and tech major at CSU as well as donate copious amounts of money back into the city. Back to Trinity… this brewery focuses on the idea of artisanal, stressing the importance and immediacy of employing seasonal ingredients (most notably in a saison). Having striven to create a community within the walls of the location near Garden of the Gods, Yester fosters a creative and interpretative approach to brewing while also serving foods designed to pair with certain beers. This focus has seen Yester put on multiple beer dinners, as the magic in pairing is rapidly becoming more popular across the state. Additionally, the company donates money to local charities every Wednesday for its “Giving Beer.” Bristol also holds a “Karma Hour” every Tuesday as a way to donate to a good cause. This company, as a part of the Ivywild project, has made the city of Colorado Springs a top priority. Build Ivywild is a concept ready to greatly expand out from this location, repurposing old buildings in order to promote symbiotic relationships between businesses and support sustainability efforts in the modern world. Though companies like these two, as well as others in Colorado Springs, call attention to supporting local communities, the spirit of collaboration among breweries in the city has not taken off on the same scale as in other cities around the state.
Colorado Springs Craft Week, organized in large part by Aly Hartwig of Pikes Peak Brewing, is a serious effort to unite all of the craft businesses in the Springs to realize such a goal. While the companies themselves are focused on serving the community, the industry as a whole in the city is on the brink of really making a name for itself as larger efforts are looking to improve the way in which the city itself operates. Last but not least is my hometown of Denver. This city, with a strong entrepreneurial character about it, is home to an incredible number of breweries burgeoning about.
Brewers like Scott Witsoe of Wit’s End bootstrapped everything on their way to success and are now really seeing everything come into greater fruition. Wit’s End, for example, won a bronze at the World Beer Cup. Tim Meyers of Strange brewing has allowed various brewers to take a crack at brewing on his system and test out how they might want to set up their own systems. He is also getting more publicity, as Strange’s Cherry Kriek won a gold at the WBC. With places like TRVE setting a cultural standard for niche markets (its being a metal brewery), the focus on cultural development in the city is setting a standard for every brewery-in-development across the state.
Though this study is nascent, I am hoping to better understand how this fascinating subculture within Colorado is going to change the way in which the state as a whole progresses. Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild told me that he sees Colorado embodying one beer culture, with each of the microbreweries fostering their own unique approach to why they live and breathe beer. I think that he makes a solid point in this thought and I realized that my project really turned into an experiment on what differs among cities in Colorado through the lens of one particular subculture.
I have to give a huge thanks to everyone who helped out in the realization of this project, including Focus on the Beer and Denver off the Wagon for publishing writing as well as directing me to some of the most passionate people that I have ever met. Colorado College’s Venture Grant program helped fund my travels that totaled over 1500 miles and included countless hours of conversation.
While I did not mention nearly as many breweries as I could have in this article, if you would like to hear more about my trip around the state, talk about some of your perspectives, and explore what’s next, please join Tyler Hill (barista, preacher, and poet) and I at two different presentations in Colorado Springs as a part of Craft Week. We will be leading discussions on coffee, beer, and community and its role in developing communities at the Wild Goose on Saturday, 4/26 at 3 PM and Shove Chapel at CC on Tuesday, 4/29 at 3 PM.