Vail Ale with Altitude column: The beauty of craft beer’s variety
Ryan Summerlin April 4, 2013
One of the points of pride we have in the craft beer industry is variety. Regardless of where you are, there is always a flavor that fits the situation – be it drinking a Sweaty Betty hefeweissen on a hot summer afternoon, enjoying a refreshing Mojo I.P.A. after work, or sipping a Killer Penguin barleywine by the fire in winter. Today, choices abound in the craft beer world; but it wasn’t always like that. In 1979, the beer landscape in the U.S. was pretty much “yellow” when we introduced Boulder Stout, Boulder E.S.B. and what is now called Planet Porter at Boulder Beer Company. At the first Great American Beer Festival in 1982, there were 22 breweries in attendance pouring a total of 40 beers (yes, we were one of them). Last year there were 84 categories of beer styles – and more than 200 entries in the American India Pale Ale style alone!The spirit of innovation of those first beers infuses our brewery today. Taking a trip along the taps at our own tasting room, our customers are excited to try the newest, biggest, experimental beers from our brewers, or settle in with the old favorites. After a while, some of the new beers hang around to become old favorites on their own. When we rolled out a dry-hopped, unfiltered amber ale 12 years ago, it was a crazy, bold new idea brewed on a small 50-gallon system by a brewer who thought it might taste good. Today, Hazed & Infused is our No. 1 seller available in 37 states — and considered a “session beer” by some of my old friends in Portland. Four years ago we did a mash-up of a brown ale and an IPA and came up with Flashback – a Brown IPA before there was such a thing.Our brewery’s mission statement talks about great beer, great people, and a great workplace. There’s nothing about focus groups, sales figures or the latest trends. We make beer. We make beer that we’d like to drink, and we take pride in it, and we know that if we like it, someone else will. That in a nutshell is the beauty of craft beer variety.As Boulder Beer’s brewmaster of more than 20 years, I’ve been asked a lot of questions. But invariably when I meet someone for the first time, the question I am always asked is: “What’s your favorite beer?” My answer never changes: “Whatever beer I’m drinking.” The next time you’re at liquor store or a restaurant/bar, I invite you to try something different. Who knows? It might become your new favorite beer. Until you order another one.Boulder Beer Company is Colorado’s first microbrewery, established in 1979. For more than 20 years, Brewmaster David Zuckerman has overseen the production of brews that have garnered more than 60 national and international medals in prestigious beer competitions since his arrival at Boulder Beer in 1990. Prior to that, he was a brewer at Bridgeport Brewing Company in Portland, Ore.