Ale with Altitude column: Have a cheers to Colorado beers

John Carlson
Ale with Altitude

Colorado is a magical place for beer lovers. The Bavaria of the Rockies has been brewing distinctive beer since the 1850s with a 17-year pause during prohibition that would stunt the state’s beer culture until the late 1970s, when the craft brewing revolution was reborn in Boulder.

With more than 190 craft breweries in Colorado, and an estimated 50 more in the planning stages, there has never been a better time to be a beer lover. The diversity of beer styles and brewing techniques are world class, and Colorado brewers are truly pioneers in their avocation.

What makes Colorado craft beer so special? Two attributes stand above the rest: the pioneering spirit (creative entrepreneurship), and collegial fellowship (getting it done together). Combine these two traits and you have the Colorado craft brewing community.

Brewers across the Centennial state are building the character of their local communities offering beer lovers and beer tourists an exciting adventure every time they visit a brew-pub, tasting room or pick up a new seasonal six-pack at their local liquor store. The flavor and diversity is simply amazing.

In an afternoon, a beer lover can visit several Colorado craft breweries and experience a wide array of beer ranging from Belgian-style ales to hoppy American India pale ales or flavorful German-style lager and Weiss Bier. It’s hard to match the creativity and availability of Colorado craft beer.

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Beer Events

Colorado is also home to excellent beer events such as the annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous, Firkin Rendezvous, Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, and the Great American Beer Festival. These gatherings afford beer lovers a great chance to meet new friends or see old ones and responsibly sample the latest offerings from Colorado craft breweries.

Creative packaging

Colorado is also a leader in creative beer packaging. Many breweries bottle their beer in 22-ounce bomber bottles also known as the dinner bottle. This format promotes sampling and experimentation. Colorado craft breweries also put craft beer in a can for the first time.

The majority of Coloradans enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, be it skiing, mountain biking, trail running or kayaking. Afterwards, a Colorado craft beer makes the experience even more special.

Colorado has become world renowned for its craft beer and food parings. Local restaurants use beer in their dishes and offer a wide selection of local craft beer to complement its menu items.

Many Colorado craft brewers collaborate with other brewers to brew distinctive beers to celebrate a certain event or create something special for beer lovers to enjoy.

Home Brewing Population

Colorado is home to an active home brewing population and several well-organized homebrew clubs. These are the beer lovers who serve as guides and mavens for people who are just learning about the wonders of Colorado craft beer.

Colorado has a rational system of law regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages. Because Colorado has a robust tier of independent retail liquor stores, small craft breweries can gain access to market and offer their special selections to an appreciative beer loving public at a reasonable price.

Colorado has a bright future. Its craft brewers are energetic and creative, its beer lovers savvy and experimental. Some of the most exciting developments in craft beer are taking place in Colorado and you too can contribute to this growing movement. Try a new Colorado craft seasonal. Visit a brewery. Plan a beer dinner or beer tasting at home. It’s simple and it’s fun.

In 1996, John Carlson became the first executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, a nonprofit corporation representing the business and legislative interests of the Colorado craft brewer. He played a large role in creating the guild’s annual beer-lover event, the Colorado Brewers Rendezvous held in Salida. Carlson is active in the local homebrew community and sits on the steering committee of the Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium.

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