Meet the new holiday, same as the old holiday

This year April 20th pretty much became a holiday for Denver. Now that weed is pretty much legal in every circumstance around the state April 20th celebrations have gone from celebratory protests to flat-out flaunting by the more questionable residents of the Denver suburbs. At least, that’s what it seemed like from my weekend perch at Black Shirt Brewing on Saturday afternoon. Two blocks away the EXDO event center was playing host to the Cannibus World Cup. As I crossed the street on my crutches folks yelled from their cars at how dedicated of a hop-head I was, and wished me a “Happy 4/20!”

Everyone seems to know that there is a marijuana culture in this state. Not everyone, it seems, has quite the understanding of craft beer.

Lots of proponents of the legalization of weed claimed the marijuana tourism would be a huge economic boost for the state. What we failed to remember is the kind of people who would be the tourists. As much of a right-wing old man as it makes me seem, lifestyle-stoners do not exactly make great tourists.

“I’d like whatever is really light and really cheap.” The gentleman was wearing a white shirt with an enormous cannibis leaf upon it and the stoner-trademark flat-brimmed baseball cap. This same young man was just outside of Black Shirt and ordered artisan, wood-fired pizza from the mobile Brava food truck operation. As delicious as Brava is, you could tell the group of hop-heads were probably after something a little closer to Dominoes.

“Do you think they’ll let us sit down inside and eat?” One of them asks the chef.

“Maybe if you buy some beer they will.”

“Oh, cool,” one says to another, “Can you go and get me a Bud or something?”

“They aren’t going to have Bud,” the chef says. “Not that kind of place.”

“Yeah,” another stoner says, “They have like, good beer.”

“Then I’ll just have whatever is light and cheap,” says another.

It’s a helluva scene to watch, but it alarms me at how much of a bubble I have likely found myself in. It rarely occurs to me that there are people who still buy cans of beer as a 30-pack while I frequently forget about the “domestic” section of the liquor store.  About three years ago the wife and I were invited to a backyard barbecue in the suburbs that was a send-off of a neighborhood kid who had enlisted in the Marines. Lots of family and close friends. Anticipating a meager selection of beer we brought a six-pack of Great Divide’s Claymore Scotch Ale – definitely not a beer for amateurs. The six pack of bottles ended up in the cooler next to a case of Budweiser.

“What, no Coors?” The grandfather of the freshly-minted Marine griped. There is a difference between Coors and Budweiser that we all ignore. There is an even bigger difference between Coors and the Scotch Ale that the grandfather then discovered as he opened up a bottle and took a hearty swig. His face grimaced as if he wanted to spit out the hop-bomb, but didn’t want to be belittled by a silly little beer.

oskar blues weed ad

I can’t say I was thrilled with my neighborhood being overrun by the stoners all weekend. Like any festival it brought headaches of parking, an abundance of folks wandering around and pissing on things, and a world of garbage that I didn’t think could be created by a group of people who were proponents of “gaia’s medicine.”

Then again, I doubt any of them could understand the craft beer culture that has a foothold year-round in the city. Why would I spend an afternoon in a tap house that didn’t have a jukebox, or Big Buck Hunter, or more than five selections (all red? What’s a red beer?) on tap. The same way I can’t really tell the difference between Indica and Sativa or the fact that there are now brand names of marijuana. At the end of the day weed is weed is weed. Our languages and cultures and hobbies are vastly different, even though we essentially share the same language.

Cannabaceae – a plant family that includes Cannabis and Humulus. One is dried, rolled, packed and smoked, the other (Humulus) is added to brews to balance out the sweetness of the malts in our beer. The only technical difference is in a few chromosomes, yet it is enough to drive a huge difference between the two styles of hop-heads. I could ignorantly claim that craft beer enthusiasts are far more productive, industrious, and have build a small economy here in the state. Then again, I spent most of my Saturday on a bar stool assuming I understood what was happening inside of the EXDO event center. At the end of the day, no one was probably in any shape to be driving home.

Then again there is plenty of crossover from the cannabis community into the craft brewer world. How many beers have been brewed with marijuana smells and flavors in mind? How many “Dank” beers are we seeing come out on the market today?

Why is it I can fully embrace one set of chromosomes, but be completely turned off by another? At the end of the day, aren’t we all just trying to imbibe and relax?

Maybe it is just a matter of remembering to take care of our garbage.


About David Pennington

Denver based writer and editor. Managing Editor of Denver Off The Wagon. Usually up to some kind of delinquency. Photos of dogs, beer, and gnarly knee scars over at

  • Roy H

    I know plenty of stoners (both in CO and elsewhere) that are huge beer nerds. Sure not all of them may be but many of the people that came here for those events still spent money in our state. Wether it was on a coors and burger at LoDo’s or a BSB Red and Brava pizza I dont care..its tourism dollars for the state! You sound like a bitter old man…”Get off my lawn you damn hoodlums!”

  • Hopcules

    Yeah, this seems like a case craft beer elitism more than anything. I don’t think somebody who isn’t a craft beer nerd ordering something ‘light and cheap’ isn’t that grievous a faux pas, especially when you consider the prevalence of high ABV, $8+ pours in local scene. And you know how awesome Domino’s is when you’re stoned? Now imagine what it must taste like when the pizza is actually GOOD!

    Also, different strains of marijuana has even less of a “brand name” than hops – Simcoe and Amarillo (amongst others) have this little TM next to them giving them legal protection over the name that describes the different characteristics (terpene & alpha acid content. etc.) Marijuana strain names serve the same purpose, but you can’t register them anywhere.

    Sorry parking sucked for you this past weekend, but that’s the price you pay for living downtown. What happens on Rockies home game days? Do you sit in your darkened loft drinking a firkin of oaked Imperial IPA with coriander, rocking back and forth cursing ‘those damn sports fans’? I think they like Coors too (I mean, that’s what the stadium is named for). Grab the pitchforks!

  • CraftyHigh

    Wow, you sure packed a lot of stereotypes into one article. Agreed, much of the 4/20 crowd this weekend wasn’t the most clean or cultured, but there are plenty of folks who smoke weed and are also upstanding, responsible citizens who don’t litter and do shower…and yes, are huge craft beer fans who can intelligently talk about beer and brewing with you for hours (yes, even while high).

  • Chris Washenberger

    Garbage aside, what’s the difference? Two nice intoxicants that have cultures surrounding them. I have a hard time not condescending certain stoner archetypes but in reality, I know tons of folks in the craft beer industry that cross over. Hell, as you point out above Oskar Blues puts a screen spot on their cans. I also know plenty of scientists that are extraordinarily successful that are regular imbibers of cannabis. Off the wagon indeed!

    Sorry. Editing myself. I hate sounding like I am justifying. Just think that the two cultures go nice together and am bummed that I missed the Cup. It was kind of a historic moment from a prohibition perspective and I think that as beer drinkers, we should respect the attitude that breaks needless prohibition of a fairly harmless thing.

  • PJ

    I fall on the same side as David with a lot of these feelings. Mainly, the tourism aspect of this weekend was hilarious and sad at the same time. Not people who smoke, just the people who were visible this weekend. It’s the same as GABF or any other festival: the people you notice tend to not be those who are partaking with respect to the product and to others.

    I personally don’t smoke, and therefore miss out on a lot of the overlap between the two groups. It’s cool to see the craft side of any industry emerge, and it’s annoying to see the other side of that bell curve appear.

    To those who are immediately compelled to comment on how superior David is acting, make sure you read his whole post.

  • D.T. Pennington

    Elitist. Stereotypical. Yeah, I get it. But I also know there isn’t a brewer alive who would have left a festival looking like this:

  • seth gerard

    I’m sure there are pot enthusiasts who appreciate the subtleties and nuances of a good single-origin kine bud the way that there are hopheads who go apeshit over an artisanal dry-hopped ale, but it seems to me that a more apt comparison for the pot ‘scene’ would be the friday/saturday night mayhem on market street… we’re not talking about enthusiasts, we’re talking about bros (and bro-ettes?) looking to have a get wasted and have a good time, be it by drinking bud light, smoking schwag, or really doing anything that gets you there fast.

    Maybe the pot scene will get to the level of the craft beer scene eventually too…right now it looks like a bunch of people who are super giddy that they aren’t going to get busted for smoking in public.

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