Colorado – I have to admit that until last fall, my only knowledge of Colorado breweries harkened back to college years at Oregon State University. You were a hero with SAE fraternity brothers and could be a babe magnet – at least temporarily – if you came back from a road trip with a few cases of Coors - brewed in Golden, Colorado.
Coors was then not sold in Oregon because it wasn’t pasteurized. As a result of its unavailability, it became a delicacy similar to Cuban cigars with the advantage that you were not supporting a communist dictator when you purchased the product.
In September 2014, my wife and I spent twelve wonderful days in Colorado, six of which were in a Breckenridge condo. While we both love Oregon, I was convinced that if we had to choose another home, it would be this state with its majestic mountains, lush forests, lakes, rivers and canyons – and oh yes – bountiful breweries, which although they are not natural wonders, can still make one’s pulse surge with anticipation.
We saw spectacular and fascinating scenery ranging from the Trail Ridge Road, which bisects Rocky Mt. National Park – 48 miles long with eight of those above 11,000 feet (Mt. Hood’s summit is 11,249) – to Garden of the God’s and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Our visit concluded watching the Oregon State Beavers beat the Colorado Golden Buffaloes football team in Boulder on a beautiful day. (Please limit your comments re. the Beavers’ final Pac 12 record.)
My fondness for Colorado was heightened by the number of breweries and great bars we visited – 18 in twelve days.
Portland purportedly has more craft breweries per capita (76 in the metro area) than any city in the world, and the state of Oregon has a total of 181 – at 6.3 per 100,000 adults – first in the US.
This compares to 175 in Colorado – 4th in the US at 4.7 – where they range from Adolph Coors Co. – the largest in the world and the formidable New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins to many micro-breweries – eight of which we were fortunate to visit and taste their product.
Our philosophy was that the 1.6 breweries per capita fewer in Colorado was the equivalent of being in a bar which had 75 different beers on tap rather than 100 and we would explore notwithstanding the #2 ranking.
We had a great time both at the beginning and end of our trip with good friends, Barb and John Senger – Barb is an OSU grad and both are retired school administrators and were accomplished tour guides.
Their extensive preparation for a Beerchaser tour was evidenced by the copy of an outstanding reference guide awaiting me on arrival – Colorado, a Liquid History & Tavern Guide of the Highest State by Dr. Thomas Noel, a professor at the University of Colorado.
Dr.Noel states in his introduction that he began surveying bars early when he was nineteen years old – forty-four years younger than when I commenced Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs. His ultimate mission makes me consider returning to graduate school – a dissertation in history at UC as follows:
For that research, I systematically visited every licensed and unlicensed after-hours club, bar, lounge, nightclub and tavern in Denver – some six hundred establishments…..Since completing the Denver bar survey of 1965 to 1978, I have not been idle. I have expanded the study, hoping to visit every bar in Colorado.”
What vision and perseverance!
The good professor promptly returned an e-mail I sent and in his response granted me permission to use excerpts from his book in my blog posts. He also informed me in his reply that he also authored another book of interest to Beerchasers – Denver: The City and the Saloon. A pearl of wisdom from Dr. Noel:
The tavern as an institution, as well as a building type, is underappreciated. This book gives a voice to people – and an institution – that usually escape dry history books. Bars have made and shaped history. They themselves have revealing histories and are great places to collect tall, short and winding tales.
Based on my Beerchaser Tour over the last 3 + years, Dr. Noel’s quote hits the mark regardless of whether the venue is in Colorado, Oregon, Amsterdam, Anchorage, Prineville or Port Townsend.
So during our twelve-day trip, what were the eighteeen bars and breweries we visited and which will be highlighted in three or four subsequent Beerchaser posts?
Boulder - Crystal Springs Brewery, The Sink, Avery Brewery, Gravity Brewery, Post Brewery
Fort Collins – The Town Pump, The Mayor of Old Town Bar, New Belgium Brewery
Colorado Springs - Phantom Canyon Brewery, The Ritz Bar
Dillon Lake - The Dillon Dam Brewery
One acknowledgement before concluding this post which I would be remiss in omitting. Our host, John Senger, in addition to having a great feel for selecting quality bars and breweries, also distinguished himself with the quality of his hand-crafted martinis – a libation for which Thebeerchaser is an enthusiastic advocate.