This Has Happened Before (But Now is Better)

By Mike Bren on Friday, April 05, 2013

It’s a good time to be a craft beer drinker in Colorado! While many reasons may come to mind, there’s one underlying principle for me, which is the notion that something that is already really good can get even better, and surprisingly so. And that gives me much hope and inspiration. I’m talking about the local beer scene in Northern Colorado, and how we’ve come from having outstanding local beers and a nationally-known craft brewing reputation to being in the midst of an even more intense explosion of diverse, niche-oriented, craft breweries that are taking beer quality and innovation to an even higher level than ever imagined. I know this is not the first time or place this has ever happened (Germany in the 1500’s, Oregon in the 1980’s), but I sure am happy to be part of what is going on right here, right now in Colorado.

When I was in college back in the early 1990’s, my friends and I got easily caught up in the 22 oz bomber wave, where you could walk down to the local liquor store, wander over to the beer section and gaze at all of the many different brands of craft brew that were available. Of course, you had Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, Rogue, and even imports like Samuel Smith’s. But there were also these other brands, local, like New Belgium, H.C. Berger, Odell Brewing Co., Heavenly Daze, Breckenridge. The beers were Fat Tire, Indigo Pale Ale, 90 Shilling, Raspberry Wheat, Avalanche and many more. Each brand went even further and brewed creative seasonal batches: spring, summer, fall and winter. It was a never-ending joy to go up to that display case and be endlessly surprised by the new offerings that just somehow magically appeared there.

Today, a similar thing is happening, except it’s on a much larger scale and includes broader distribution mixed with a hyper-local element. The established local breweries are still churning out their standard brews and their seasonal brews, expanding and shipping them as far as quantity and logistics can reasonably permit. A host of new breweries have opened up within the last year alone, adding their own unique styles. New bars and tap rooms have opened up with very large selections of local, national and international beers. Beer events are proliferating, with keg tapping parties, beer dinners, social groups organized around beer. Then, some sunny afternoon, you visit a local brewery’s tasting room, hear live music in the air, order up a pint draft of your old favorite pulled right from the source, then discover a multitude of monthly small-batch beers that come and go like a thunderstorm, but are ever so enjoyable while they are around, Cocoa Mole, Footprint, La Calaveras, Springboard and Curmudgeon’s Nip. How will you ever have time to try them all? Better have a good memory or these unique flavors will come and go, lost to the sands of time.

And that brings me to the final sentiment of this entry. A beer journal. Seems like a pretty good idea, right? In the coming months and years, my colleagues and I will strive to periodically capture and record some of the essences and fleeting experiences of this very fast-paced, dynamic period of craft brewing in Colorado. Perhaps capture some of the local perspective and insight, explain some history, wax philosophical on beer culture, and then share it with those who may benefit from it and help to promote conversation about beer. Cheers!