Denver, Colorado is title town for craft beer. And in 1983 when the Great American Beer Festival held it's first "People's Choice Award" it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that took home the gold. The last time it won was 1995, but for most Pale Ale drinkers with more than a few years of drinking experience, Sierra Nevada will always define the category more often populated by IPA levels of bitterness rather than its paler, easier drinking brethren.
It was a rainy afternoon in Denver, a rarity for a city that sees more than 300 days of sunshine every year, but soon enough the clouds parted and the sun shone through. Complete with a double rainbow, all the way.
Many of the Beer Camp collaborators were there to pour, including recent additions to the bus — Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River with Pliny the Elder and Supplication (the longest line at the fest all day), Colby Chandler of Ballast Point with Victory at Sea and Sculpin, and David Walker of Firestone Walker with Easy Jack and Opal.
The fest was an excuse for some out of towers to make the trip as well. Prairie Artisan Ales from Oklahoma City, Laughing Sun from South Dakota, and Moab Brewing from Utah all saddled up and drove into the mountains for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to pour alongside Ken Grossman. Throughout the day, countless selfies were taken by 30-and-40-year-old brewers starstruck by Grossman’s presence. “I’m not too old to be a fanboy,” was the general sentiment.
A number of impressive beers came from upstarts in the Colorado scene, clearly well into its third wave of development after decades of leading this industry. Notable palate ticklers include:
I love getting to know people at festivals around the country. On the surface, most festivals look the same. But craft beer audiences are more diverse than ever before, and Denver was no exception. No longer an isolated subculture, craft beer has done a phenomenal job of attracting foodies, adventure seekers, and people just looking to have a great time outdoors with their friends in the summer. Young and old, men and women, casual drinkers and aficionados alike — this is what beer drinking in Denver looks like, and I had a blast capturing their spirit.
Back on the bus, we're headed to Des Moines for a pig roast at El Bait Shop with a quick stop at Nebraska Brewing Company for lunch. And Sunday, we roll in to the festival at Navy Pier in Chicago. See you on the road!