I haven’t had a sip of the stuff in a few years and really don’t enjoy the taste, but I love that beer. Fat Tire too. These beers are two of my favorite made in the state. And I don’t plan on paying for or drinking one ever again.
People like to shit on these beers, among many others. Mentioning Breckenridge will cause many beer drinking residents of Colorado to sneer. To scoff. To raise their noses and say “oh Breckenridge? They don’t make good beer.” If you don’t do this, good on you.
We’re spoiled. Extremely spoiled. In Denver alone, we have almost two dozen breweries. With Denver addresses. Not Aurora or Englewood or Longmont or Boulder. Denver. We have running clubs that will visit five breweries in a 5k loop. It’s amazing. But relax your pinkies, bring your noses back to nose level, and calm your shit down.
Here’s the thing. Two things, really. These breweries are responsible for that crazy weird chocolate vanilla raspberry barrel aged brett stout you just tried from your new neighborhood brewery, and they actually make that stuff as well. Let’s start with the first point.
Breckenridge, Wynkoop, and their combined holdings cover a lot of taps and a lot of history in Denver. To name a few: Breckenridge Brewery, Breckenridge Ballpark Brewery, Wynkoop, Ale House at Amato’s, Wazee Supper Club, Ghost Tap, Gaetano’s, Cherry Cricket, and Pearl Street Grill. Combined, and I like to call their new formation “Breckenkoop”, they have a lot of money and a lot of real estate. Ya, Avalanche is a pretty boring example of a beer. But it’s a gateway beer. A bridge. It carries people from Coors or Bud into the idea of craft beer. And beyond that, all that money pushes people across that bridge. Advertising and marketing and event sponsorships, these guys are out there. Sidenote: that money stays in Colorado, too.
Meanwhile, Wynkoop is a landmark, and visitors to Denver, as well as people without bias go there, have an amazing time and get an introduction to something new, like a Light Rail Ale or Rail Yard. Nothing crazy, no hop bombs or horse blankets. But the service, the servers, and the overall experience will convince someone to try a craft beer again. And again. And again.
And so these newly initiated into the world of craft beer are open to more. They’re willing to try that beer on happy hour, or the server’s suggestion, or even some colorful six-pack at their local liquor store. Hopefully, it’s a good brew and nothing too out there, and the foundation for good beer is more strongly solidified. They see a necklace with an Oskar Blues can, or recognize the big red Left Hand logo, and the big local and regional breweries start to seep in. “Oh Great Divide, that sounds familiar, I’ll try that.” Suddenly, they find themselves at the Great Divide tap room, sipping on a Collette and chowing down some Basic Kneads, and someone hands over a taster of Espresso Yeti. Welcome to the bigs. Have a Wild Wild Brett Indigo. Try some Meph Addict, err, Tweak. How about a double Colorado Whiskey Sour made with La Folie and two local spirits?
It’s a journey most of us have followed. But look back to where it started.
My first craft beer was a Fat Angel from Magic Hat in Vermont, followed closely – like, that night – by a #9 and then a Long Trail Ale. #9 isn’t known for being the world’s craziest brew, but it’s pretty fucking stellar when you’ve been stealing your dad’s Miller High Life.
So here’s my point. Breckenridge makes an amber so Great Divide doesn’t have to. Breckenridge and the like support this industry in bigger ways than people give them credit for. No, their beer isn’t the craziest or best beer on the block. But it’s damn good, it’s exactly what they intend to make, and it supplies new, eager, thirsty consumers to the other 150+ breweries in this state.
Oh, and they do make some crazy beer. The other day, I tried a beer without seeing the tap. It was dark, rich in flavor and aroma, and tasted familiar. I guessed that it came from The Bruery. Someone else thought Cigar City. Many questioned if it was a new Russian River, or perhaps an Avery collaboration. It was Breck’s Well Built ESB, aged in Stranahan’s barrels. Meanwhile, Wynkoop collaborated with New Belgium and Infinite Monkey Theorem to produce Brewjolais Noveau, a sour brown brewed with 1200 pounds of cabernet grapes, aged in wine barrels for 10 months. It’s 9.6% ABV. And soon they’ll have a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. Seriously.
This rant doesn’t apply to everyone, and I’m not saying you’ll see me at 471 Kalamath on any sort of regular basis. Obviously a lot of people love Breckenridge, or the company wouldn’t be expanding and dealing with local legal issues on their size. Wynkoop just added a new fermenter. Things are going pretty well. But at the same time, beer geekery verges on beer snobbery, and it’s sad. As long as a brewery makes a solid product, focusing on both the quality of every brew and the experience of every guest, they help the rest of the industry and their local community. A rising tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes. Or as a saying I just made up goes, a pitcher goes down faster with the help of your friends.
What do you think? Are you hooked, a hater, or confused by why I’m so ranty?