Craft Beer brewing has been a Colorado tradition almost as long as the State has been in the union. Not only do we house the Largest Beer maker in the world, Coors, but we have the largest number of microbreweries per capita in the country.
Colorado has not only been a Craft Beer Capitol for over 30 years but is also the host of the Great American Beer festival which was started here in the 1980’s. This festival brings hundreds of Brewers and thousands of beers to Denver and the beer drinking public in order to educate and celebrate this great and ancient draught elixir. Now there are many Beer related festivals throughout the year and the Vail area hosts a couple of my favorites. The Big Beers Belgians and Barlywine festival in January and the upcoming Red Whites and Brews later this month.
With only a handful of great beers leaving the state and country, there are ample local tastings and hidden gems throughout the many mountain towns. Some towns, like Boulder and Fort Collins, have some of the beers that have made the most impact, nationally, but also have the small batch brews that you can only taste on premises. Now, with new barrel aging techniques, there are even more complex and higher alcohol content beers than ever before. A lot of these are in such small production that the ony way to taste them is on site at the brewery.
Even in 1991, when I first stepped foot in Colorado, attending C.U., the Craft breweries were an inspiration. The Oasis, Walnut, Sunshine and Boulder breweries were the flavors of the era.
I even started home brewing before I was of the legal age to drink. My 21st birthday beer was a honey porter and was delicious. One of my roommates, Jimmy, still has one of the bottles filled with beer. I keep telling him we have to drink it but he is afraid that he will get sick. It is 20years old! But I did use a ton of honey, and, mead is one of those things that ages well, so…I think it will be fine. The only question would be how sanitary I was. Cleaning recycled bottles in a college household bathtub could go either way.
I think that the beer craze tapered off for a second in the early 2000s but has recently found another resurgence and growth spurt within the state. In the last 5 years, the Vail area has sprouted some talented young brewers. Crazy Mountain, Vail Brewing, 7 Hermits and Bonfire Brewing are Vail’s top breweries.
One of the best ways to experience this great local phenomenon is to go on a local brewery tour. Vail Valley Food tours offers a tour of the local Vail breweries. Tours include tastings from the breweries that are visited, tours of the brewery, when possible, and transportation. You should never drink and drive, so we will get you there and back safely.
Every brewing town in Colorado offers at least one brew tour. Definitely a fun way to see the town and taste the wonderful beer. During the tour you can purchase a growler of your favorites to enjoy later. This may be the only way some of this fine beer will find its way out of state.
After 3000 years, beer is still finding ways to improve and is still one of the most popular beverages. Try a craft beer tour the next time you are in Colorado.