Month-Long Event Highlights Local Breweries
Douglas County Libraries is inviting residents to celebrate Colorado’s craft beer industry, which has more than tripled in the last five years.
With more than 6,000 workers and an economic impact of $1.15 billion in 2014, the industry continues to grow.
“We’re still opening at a rate of more than one a week,” says Ed Sealover, a reporter with the Denver Business Journal who has written two books on Colorado’s craft brew industry – “Colorado Excursions with History, Hikes and Hops,” and “Mountain Brew – A Guide to Colorado’s Breweries.”
Colorado has been at the forefront of the industry. Boulder Beer, which produced its first batch of beer in 1980, is the oldest craft brewery in America, Sealover says.
It took another eight years for the second brewery in the state to open – Wynkoop Brewpub – after a change in Colorado laws and a long struggle to find financing. About 30 banks and even the mother of Wynkoop partner Gov. John Hickenlooper wouldn’t provide financing.
But the six Wynkoop partners persevered and Wynkoop – the state’s first brewpub and second brewery – “was a big hit,” Sealover says. Shortly thereafter, Carver Brewing opened a brewpub in Durango, and the industry “grew from there.”
“By the early ’90s, when you see companies like New Belgium and Left Hand coming along with a host of other breweries that aren’t around right now, it really picked up steam throughout the state to the point where we have somewhere around 350 breweries around the state of Colorado right now.”
The phenomenon has spread to the suburbs. Douglas County is no exception.
“Douglas County is a great example of how the craft brewery movement has spread in recent years,” Sealover says, noting that only three breweries were located here in 2011 – Elk Mountain Brewing Company in Parker, Rockyard Brewing Company in Castle Rock and Lone Tree Brewing in Lone Tree.
“It’s really settled into more of a mainstream movement. Everybody wants to try these new beers. Everybody wants to drink locally too,” Sealover says. “People are almost demanding that they have a neighborhood brewery now, and Douglas County is really meeting that demand.”
Douglas County Libraries is on the bandwagon. For the third straight year, the library district is hosting a brew tour to highlight the county’s breweries. Those who join the free tour and visit five of the 10 participating breweries in the month of September – and complete their brew tour passport – are entitled to a commemorative beer glass courtesy of DCL.
Last year, about 415 people completed the challenge with an estimated 1,000 people visiting the breweries, and attending special events with beer tappings and speakers, says Kerri Morgan, DCL program and events supervisor.
Morgan says there really isn’t a typical participant.
“We’ve seen people come in that are couples in their mid-20s that are so excited that they’d finished their brew tour and they got their glasses, and we have folks who are in their 60s, empty nesters and retirees coming to our events and going around to all the breweries,” Morgan says. “It’s a really mixed bag, which is great. It shows the demographic diversity of Douglas County.”
For more information about the tour or to download a passport, visit DouglasCountyLibraries.org.