Rocky Mountain Beer

How the brewery scene has evolved in Colorado
Rocky Mountain Beer

Photo Beer Modified: Flickr/vxla/CC 4.0

The Colorado beer scene has evolved throughout the years.

The front range of Colorado has some of the most majestic scenery in the world. Morning sunrises shine upon the mountains of the Front Range, lifting shades of green that makes the Rocky Mountains look like a painting from the Hudson River School. You can almost hear John Denver himself, echoing that iconic song as you look on to the backdrop of the foliated mountains. However, if you are too busy taking in all the scenery you might not realize that you are standing in the Napa Valley of craft beer. Craft beer in Colorado did not happen overnight. It started as a homebrewing revolution that is mostly credited to Charlie Papazian, who founded of The American Homebrewers Association in 1978. After President Jimmy Carter signed a bill legalizing the production of beer at home, Charlie Papazian helped to pass on the tradition of craft of brewing to anyone who would listen. The legalization allowed people to start experimenting with interesting flavors, reviving old styles that had been long abandoned. Which eventually lead to the opening of Boulder Beer Company in 1979 and shifted the paradigm for what we know today as craft beer.

The Front Range of Colorado is currently home to 143 breweries and the national Brewers Association. Each year, new independent craft breweries are opening across the front range and enriching the culture of craft beer. These small breweries focus on producing beer with artisan quality for local markets. A high standard that has been set by more established Colorado craft breweries:New Belgium, Great Divide, Odell, and Oskar Blues, just to name a few. But even with all the big-name breweries, there is still a thriving culture of small breweries who set up shop in locations that you might pass everyday --a strip mall, a historic building or an old warehouse --where every inch of the space has been used to create that brewery's unique drinking environment. These are the breweries that you might never know existed unless someone said, "You have to go!"

This plethora of craft breweries is what makes for such a joyful beer drinking experience in the front range of Colorado. And Denverites know how to enjoy a good brew, like at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held in Denver every year. At GABF, more than 500 breweries come together from all across America to celebrate the craft beer industry, offering samples of their brews to thousands of beer enthusiast. Brewers and other passionate craft beer drinkers mingle while sampling all the beer one can handle. -- Just don’t drop your cup or you will be noticed quickly by all the other festival goers.

However, GABF is just one event in the Denver drinking season. Throughout the year there are hundreds of festivals, beer tastings and beer dinners where you can experience craft beer culture and the excitement that inspires new and creative brews. Take the newest trend in beer tastings, the beer dinner: the beer dinners are a great way to try beer styles that you wouldn’t normally, all while eating delicious food prepared just for pairing. After all, the purpose of a beer dinner is to experience how a beer can be paired with food just as well, if not better than, wine or spirits. It is these events that make Colorado like no other place in the U.S. We are a state where craft beer is woven into the culture so profoundly that you can get a local brew at any business that sells beer.

Perhaps you are reading this and saying to yourself, "I don't like micro brews." Well, if if you live in Colorado, and you may hear in response: "You just haven't met the right beer." Half of the fun of craft beer is tasting something different that may become a new favorite. And nothing compares to the excitement of waiting to taste a new beer from your hometown brewery, or tasting a familiar style from a new brewery. We Coloradans have the privilege of experiencing commitment to quality and satisfaction to taste that these craft brewers have to offer.

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(Photo Beer Modified: Flickr/vxla/CC 4.0)