Colorado Experience: Cheers to Beers


[music playing] Beer is one of the most
popular beverages in Colorado. It’s actually the third
most popular drink in the world after life’s other
necessities, water and tea. But how did brewed grains
become so ingrained in Colorado? While Native Americans made
mash brews here 800 years ago, what we think of as beer today
arrived with the Gold Rush. You see pictures of miners. They’re down in the
ground 16 hours a day. When they come up,
they want beer. To be able to
relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew– that’s
what it takes to be a winner. When I started
homebrewing in 1970, you heard about,
oh, my grandfather used to make beer
during Prohibition. And oh, it used to
be in the bathtub, and the bottle used to explode
underneath the cellar steps. No one was concerned
with getting rich. People were really concerned
with making great beer, trying to make people
happy, and making sure you didn’t lose your shirt. From immigrants
looking for a new home to homebrewing, from
brawling frontier saloons to a booming craft
beer industry, this liquid gold floats the
culture, economy, and lifestyle of the Centennial State. Cheers to beers. This program was made possible
by the History Colorado State Historical Fund. Supporting projects
throughout the state to preserve, protect,
and interpret Colorado’s architectural and
archeological treasures, History Colorado
State Historical Fund. Create the future. Honor the past. With support from the
Denver Public Library, History Colorado, and
the Colorado Office of Film, Television and
Media, with additional support from these organizations
and viewers like you. Thank you. [music playing] Starting in 1859, tens
of thousands of men developed gold fever and
started heading west. When gold was discovered,
they needed miners. Well, most of the people that
knew about hard rock mining were Europeans. They came here from Germany,
from Italy, from Cornwall, from Wales. They had beers there,
older countries with older traditions of beer. And so they wanted beer. It’s a very thirsty business. This idea of people trying
to make a new start, coming out here,
hoping to make it big and break into a new
part of their own life and their own world. But they brought a lot
of stuff with them, and Colorado became kind of a
melting pot of those cultures. I think with saloon
life, they really were trying to find a
bit of the old country and the new country. All beer sold in the
late 19th century was virtually sold
at the brewery. People would come
and bring growlers. The term “growlers” actually
originated from the tin cans that miners would take
down in with their lunches. After they had their
lunch, and then when they came up
out of the mine, they’d use that same
can to go to the brewery and get their beer. As they walked, carbon dioxide
would come out of the beer and make the tin lid growl. During the early days
of the Gold Rush, when Denver was just a
sepia-toned collection of shacks, merchants
were rushing to Denver, hoping to supply the miners and
strike riches for themselves. Two of those merchants
were Frederick Solomon and John Good. And both of them seem to
have looked around town and realized you could get a
lot for a couple of pinches of gold dust. But one thing that you
couldn’t get was beer. There are four basic
ingredients in beer– water, grain, yeast, and hops. The pure Rocky Mountain
water was definitely here, and grain was plentiful,
but yeast and hops were in short supply
in Colorado in 1859. Beer is a city beverage that
requires enough infrastructure to have supply lines
that will bring the hops, the barley, the yeast. Whiskey was really the drink
of choice in those early days, and that’s because
whiskey travels well. You can ship it
across the plains. Beer was something that
didn’t travel well. Before pasteurization
and individual bottling and railroads to move fast,
if you were to ship beer from St. Louis to
Denver, it could easily spoil along the way. Even though whiskey was
easier to transport, bartenders could certainly
increase their profit margins by cutting it with
all kinds of things. But you don’t want
to cut it with water, so they got creative
about the things that they would add to
help it retain its kick– gunpowder, tobacco juice– just
all kinds of terrible things. So without poison and with
only about 4% alcohol, beer became the health drink of
choice on the Western frontier. Adolph Coors– how did he
manage to make his way here to the United States? It’s very sad, obviously,
that his family was in just utter dire straits,
losing both parents, I think within eight
months of each other, due to tuberculosis. And he was trying to make a way
to get his brothers and sisters out of orphanage,
and then eventually managed to take this risk
and get out of the country and head for a new start. He had stowed away on a ship to
make his way to United States from Germany. And it was something that
Adolph was so embarrassed about, which is maybe a testament to
how upstanding of a gentleman he was, that he had done
this thing that was illegal. According to the
historic record, he did pay for that
fair because he just couldn’t handle the fact
that he took something, of becoming such a
millionaire in his own right so quickly with his
new start in Colorado. But apparently, that’s
how he made his way here, and it was something
that they tried to keep under wraps for a long time. Now, I think with the way
the story is told anymore and the fascination with
beer history in general, it’s kind of a nice story
to know that this guy really went from such rags to riches,
that he had to hop on a boat completely illegally
to get here. When Adolph Sr. first
got to Golden, Colorado, it was really a frontier town. There was very few
businesses here. It was just a small mining town
at the base of the foothills. It was the definition
of Wild West. They saw these artesian wells
coming up through the ground, saw the beautiful mesas
on both sides of Golden, and tasted the
water and said, this would be good for making beer. In the latter part
of the 19th century, Adolph Coors’s company survived
when many other breweries came and went. But Prohibition would
soon change everything. The Colorado Christian
Women’s Temperance Union was a big advocate for getting
Colorado dry, and Adolph Sr. Realized, thanks to that
group being so vocal, that Prohibition was
going to occur sooner in Colorado rather than in
the rest of the country. The temperance movement
nationwide really started because
of that perception that the gin houses, the
whiskey, and all that was being drunk in taverns– it really was over the top. And so the movement was
really about shutting down distilled spirits. Beer was considered a
beverage of moderation. Beer did get
unfortunately swept up in the Women’s Temperance
Union’s big movement, and it really went against
a lot of the people who were living in Golden’s ideology. Because a lot of them
were good Germans, and they like to
drink their beer. Coors, like all breweries,
had to dump their beer, which is unfortunate. Before Prohibition
actually started, Adolph Sr. was able to start
investing in other companies. He started the Coors
Porcelain Company in 1910. They also started production
of malted milk in 1912. Coors was one of only a handful
of breweries left standing when Prohibition ended in 1933. By the time World
War II started, more breweries
were in production, and the US government
ordered that 15% of all beer be set aside for troops
as essential for morale. Just a decade after Prohibition,
beer consumption grew by 50%. There were a number of people. A lot of them happen to
be veterans, GIs returning from either World War II
or Cold War assignments overseas, where they had
tasted other styles of beer. And they came back
to the United States, and they couldn’t
find the types of beer that they had enjoyed elsewhere. And a few of them
started to figure out how to make their
own, and it was really a sort of underground
movement for a long time, not least of which because it
was illegal to homebrew beer. The repeal act actually did
not legalize homebrewing beer. That didn’t happen
until Jimmy Carter. You start to see people,
especially in the 1970s, moving to Colorado
for the lifestyle. It’s a quality of life
choice, and they figure out how to make a living
once they get here. Some of those people figured
out that they could sell beer. A handful of
homebrewing pioneers led the way, just as
the Gold Rush explorers had done a century earlier. Homebrewing is the ability to
reproduce the variety of beer that this country used to have. Craft brewing, it started with
Charlie Papazian’s book “Joy of Homebrewing.” There have always
been homebrewers. Even in the history
books, you’ll go back and you’ll see little
stories about homebrewers and how they were getting
their malt and hops. They would have to go to
the commercial brewery to get their malt and hops
and yeast in order to brew. Charlie Papazian said that
he got into brewing beer because he noticed that
beer made people happy. If you’re sitting around
drinking vodka all night, it makes people drunk. But if you’re sitting
around enjoying beers, it makes people happy. Oh, what do I love
about great beer? How it puts people together in
a collaborative, communicative, creative innovation mode. That’s just part of it. Of course, there’s the
beer itself and the flavor and the creation of a
liquid that a lot of people seem to enjoy. Well, that will take a
little while to settle, but the best beer in
the world takes time. The creation of beer is both
the result of art and science and a soul, which is
kind of indescribable. But it has a lot to do
with the people that are making it, the reasons
why they’re making, their attitude about life,
and wanting to improve the quality of people’s lives. So Charlie Papazian
is one of the people that we all need to be thanking
for the craft beer revolution. He had homebrewed a little
bit when he was in college. When he got to Boulder,
he found a community sort of formed around the homebrew. He started offering classes. People started having these
great homebrewing parties up in the mountains. It was called Beer and Steer. It was this great
weekend event where they would roast a
steer over a spit, and everyone would come together
with their latest homebrews. They’d keep them cold in a bin
filled with snow that they’d hauled down from higher
elevation, and trade recipes, trade tastes. It was over 1,000 students that
I taught in the Denver-Boulder metro/Front Range area. And it brought people together. And of course, when
you’ve had a few beers, you get all kinds of
great creative ideas. And let’s party. Let’s celebrate
what we’re doing. This is before the internet,
before it was easy to share, before there were even good
recipes out there to share. They were inventing a
lot of these things. They were experimenting
with them. The inspiration for the American
Homebrewers Association, which I founded and
created in 1978, was the result of having
too much homebrew. Oh, that good beer. Some of my homebrew
students and I were enjoying
homebrew one evening, and we had this
idea of, wouldn’t it be cool to start a newsletter
to communicate recipes and share ideas? The idea morphed from a
newsletter to a magazine to the American
Homebrewers Association that created the magazine. Sometimes you make decisions
that you shouldn’t be making, but they turn out OK after all. When you’re a homebrewer
and all your friends are raving about your
homebrewed product, homebrewers then say, well, what’s
the next step for us? Next step for us is
to go commercial, to, sell the beer that we produce. So they’ll start small. They’ll get a little bit bigger. And that’s still going on today. Most of the craft
brewers today started off as homebrewers, started
off reading Charlie’s book. It is really one
of the reasons why I think we see such a large
number of breweries here in Colorado, is we had a man
like Charlie Papazian, who is like our Johnny
Appleseed of craft beer. Charlie Papazian not only
started a brewing revolution in and around Boulder. He would create what would
become the international mecca of craft brewing. But in the early
1980s, his vision faced skeptical colleagues and
a public palate that wasn’t yet thirsty for unique beers. That would soon change. The Great American
Beer Festival was a result of my
traveling to England and visiting the Great
British Beer Festival and being inspired by
the notion, the challenge of thinking about,
well, does America have a beer culture
it could celebrate? And to most people,
the answer was no. But in my mind, I thought there
was something to that idea. We wanted people to
think about the beer. We wanted people to learn about
the people who were making it. We wanted people to understand
the ingredients that went into the beer, the process. We wanted people to appreciate
that different kinds of beer went very well with
different kinds of food, and approach beer from
a culinary aspect. There’s an art to making
beer, and there’s also an art to enjoying beer. There were 750 people at the
first festival, 40 beers, 20 brewers. And finding beers for that first
beer festival was a challenge. The Great American Beer
Festival used to be a hard sell. We were out in the streets
selling tickets during the beer festival not as long
as 10 years ago, and now it sells
out within hours. That’s a lot of tickets. Now there are several
thousand breweries, more than 8,000 beers that get
judged at this competition, and over 50,000 people that
come to the Great American Beer Festival. So it has become not
only a beer event. It has become a cultural event. Colorado attracts all of these
brewers to come once a year and taste one another’s beers. And it really is sort of at
the center of our movement. There are about 6,700 craft
brewers in the United States right now, and we hear that
there are about another 1,500 in planning. It’s a big movement. The first craft brewpub in
Colorado opened in 1988, and it was not in some
fashionable neighborhood. It was on Denver’s Skid Row. Wynkoop Brewing would forever
change Denver and its politics, and a brewer would find his
way to the governor’s mansion. John Hickenlooper
was a geologist who lost his job during
the economic downturn in the early ’80s. The story goes that he took what
he had remaining of his funds and went on a road
trip, ran into a brewpub out in California, and thought,
this is a really cool concept. This could maybe work in Denver. So then I kind of got involved
in trying to lay it out and got a book from
the library on how to write a business plan. And I’d been a homebrewer
since, like, 1971, and we started working on it. But it still took two years. It took him a while to
line up the funding. He loves telling
people that even his own mother wouldn’t invest. It was something that
people hadn’t seen. A restaurant that
makes its own beer? Well, who’s going to go to that? What’s the point? You can buy beer and serve it
with your meal if you want. We have plenty of
Coors available. Why would anyone
want these higher priced beers that they’re
making here on site? But eventually, he
and his partners lined up the funding, secured
a building in lower downtown Denver, which at
the time was not the same as the hip, trendy
neighborhood that it is today. It became the Wynkoop Brewery. It was popular from the get-go. The story is that
on opening night, they were selling beer for
just a couple of quarters just to get the word
out about the brewery. And the bar was so
packed that Hickenlooper was wishing he had
doubled the price because it would have
paid off the debt faster. In the 1980s, most
people just loved beer, and they were less concerned
with how much money they were going to make
and more concerned that they didn’t lose money. That was the goal, was– I couldn’t get my
own mother to invest, but her sister did invest. And I wanted to make sure that
the $10 grand from Aunt Janie didn’t go down the drain. So when we signed
our lease into 1987, our rent was $1 a
square foot per year. Now the rents down there are
$40, $50 bucks a square foot. At that time, it was an
abandoned warehouse district. We’d sit down on the
loading dock on Saturday, and we’d see tumbleweeds
blow down Wynkoop Street. We were the first restaurant
to open in downtown Denver in five years, and all these
other restaurateurs said, gosh, if Hickenlooper and
those knuckleheads can have a big hit
restaurant downtown, then we know what we’re doing. We can do it even better. So all of a sudden, there
were two more brewpubs opened in ’92. There were seven
other restaurants that opened in downtown
Denver in 1992. John Hickenlooper, former
geologist-turned-brewpub entrepreneur, rode his
success into politics, first becoming Mayor of Denver,
then Governor of Colorado. He still enjoys a cold
beer with some old friends. Beer is a big deal in
Colorado for a lot of reasons. One is that we were a
pioneer state for beer, and we have that
brand attached to us. It is connected to innovation
and something new and fresh. It’s a part of our economy now. I mean, were talking,
I don’t know, probably 15,000 jobs now and all
kinds of economic development in smaller towns. There are now over
350 breweries, probably be 400 by
the end this year. And that’s just a big deal. Most important of
everything is it’ helped make us a beacon
for young people. We have more live music
venues in metropolitan Denver now than Austin or Nashville. We have more breweries per
capita in metropolitan Denver than any other
metropolitan area. I mean, we’ve been
the number one economy in the country
for the last two years, and that attraction of young
people and entrepreneurs has been a big part of it. And beer is a big part of that. I think that craft
brewing and Colorado were a natural combination. The population here tends
to be pretty educated, which means that they travel
and sort of see beer culture. The quality of water
is very good here. And I think that combination
was really important for craft brewing in the state. New Belgium was one of
the first breweries that were giving people a chance
to pair that lifestyle with a delicious craft beer. I had a keg of Sunshine
imported to my wedding in eastern Washington before it
was really distributed there, because for us, it became
so associated with the taste of home. Like, this was part of being
a Coloradoan was having these great beers that other
places didn’t really enjoy in the mid-’90s. When Jeff Lebesch and I
first started New Belgium, we were thinking
about starting a craft brewery that specialized
in Belgian-style beers. Beer is to Belgium
what wine is to France. You have malt, water,
hops, and yeast. And in Belgium, they say the
fifth ingredient is creativity and the sixth this passion. I think as brewers, we do
get very attached emotionally to the beer that we produce. We almost see it as defining us. Hops are the seasoning of beer. Malts provide the backbone,
the soul, the color, the flavor of the beer, and the alcohol. All the alcohol comes from malt.
The hops are the seasoning. You can get citrusy
flavors from hops. You can get mango,
fresh fruit, tobacco– all kinds of different flavors
from different varieties and even different
growing conditions. We publish our recipes basically
on our website for homebrewers. If they wanted to
try to recreate White Rascal, our
best-selling beer, they can go see what it is. But it won’t taste like
the beer that we produce, and it’s because how
someone processes the beer will affect the flavor. It’s kind of that really cool
artistic component to it. The art of beer brewing
is an ancient one, and it’s one man’s job to
make everything old new again. Travis Rupp has the enviable
title of beer archeologist. Most of my research has
been in ancient Europe and the Mediterranean, Near
East and Middle East as well. What I try to do is figure out
how the ancients were making a specific kind of
beer or beer style, use ingredients
that they used then, and I bring them back
to Avery Brewing Company and reconstruct it as a part
of Ales of Antiquity series. I think it’s very
possible that people were producing something
of an alcoholic drink maybe as early as 8,000 BCE. One thing that’s been proven
is that as little as 1% alcohol by volume in a
liquid will kill up to 99% of the
bacteria that’s in it. And I think the ancients figured
that out really, really quickly because they had a lot of water
sources that weren’t clean, weren’t safe for them to drink. And they realized
that if they went through this specific process– and maybe it was as simple
as taking the water out and letting it sit with
some grain or some fruit or something in it– that you could consume it
and you weren’t sick by it. And there was also a high
nutritional value to it as well. So that’s probably
why it came about. I think it was
just a safe option. From an ancient
health drink to one of today’s most
popular libations, beer has been our
constant companion. But what about tomorrow? Colorado is now dubbed
the Napa Valley of beer. Can the state
maintain that allure? There was that rush– the Gold Rush of
beer, if you will– in Colorado, where more and
more breweries were popping up. And eventually what
happened was we kind of have saturated the
market to a degree, and it’s worked in the favor
of the big guys a little bit. They’re buying up
a lot of breweries that were making a
name for themselves, had enough of the market
share that they could grab them, take it for their own. But what’s an
interesting testament to that is when those breweries
started to get bought up by the big
conglomerates like that, there was a huge
backlash from their fans. There were pictures and videos
of people pouring beer out in the streets because
they were boycotting their favorite brewery
because they had sold. Craft beer drinkers
want to be identified as people that support
independent craft breweries. They’re willing to
go to those extremes to hold onto their principles. Craft breweries have
really taken off. And it’s really nice
to have a cozy place to go after a day in the
mountains, skiing, or hiking, or whatever– a nice, cozy
place to meet your friends and have a final beer
at the end of the day. Craft brewers provide that. It’s not a place to drink your
beer and mope about what’s going on in the country. It’s a place to celebrate what
you’ve done during the day. I’ve been told many times
I have the gift of gab, but I get even more gabby
what I’ve been drinking beer. And I think we all do. There is that idea of having
that pint in your hand, consuming it while you’re
talking to other people. Spirits and wine can be a little
bit more of a individual thing. And I think that’s also
why it marries well to the state of
Colorado, because this is a very social state. We like to get out and do
things with other people. We make beer for a living, so if
you can’t have fun making beer, that’s a bit of a problem. You need to kind of look
at your fun meter, I think. And I think at
New Belgium, we’ve always felt like, in addition
to applying an ancient art form, we’re also creating a community. Beer in Colorado is
extremely popular today. And I think that it’s
become so popular that it literally just is
something that almost all of us do. It’s something that
kind of makes us human. That social
construct of Colorado is, let’s go out to
the brewery tonight, or what bar has the
greatest tap list. And I think that’s
the legacy, is that it’s stood the test
of time, and to the degree that it has absolutely
blown up in this state. And it has defined us. We will always be a beer state. Dynamite. Excellent. And what a setting. [music playing] (SINGING) Drinking at the bar
helps to dull an aching heart. What could be turns
to could have been. I’ll have another one,
just like this one. If I still find a tear
at the bottom of my beer, I’ll have another one. With a drink in my hand,
happy hours are mine. I forget it all in
alcohol and pray the world gets right by closing time.

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