It’s been nearly six months since flash floods devastated Lyons and much of Longmont, CO but all major roads have been completely rebuilt, the displaced have begun to re-establish, and a sense of community has been solidified. A huge factor in Northern Colorado’s recovery has been Oskar Blues Brewery that raised $515,000 dollars between September and December 2013 for flood relief through its CAN’d Aid Foundation.
Since opening in 1997, owner Dale Katechis has been dedicated to his brewery’s backyard, organizing community events, local bike groups, and creating Hops and Heifers, a 50-acre sustainable farm that supplies Oskar Blues with several varieties of hops to brew with and meat from spent-grain-fed Black Angus cattle to supply its restaurants.
“Oskar Blues is a collection of people who have a passion for what they do and where they live,” says Chad Melis of Oskar Blues. “There is a certain adventurous spirit in Colorado and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by people doing what they love every day.”
In a word, Oskar Blues is Colorado. With its strong allegiance to community and innovative spirit, what better brewery than Oskar Blues to represent Colorado at the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), taking place at the Convention Center April 8-11.
The CBC is held in different cities each year and it has become customary for host city breweries and local guild to brew a beer specially made for the conference. On February 24, a veritable “who’s who” of Colorado brewers, maltsters, hop growers and other sudsy individuals descended upon Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont for a historic brew session.
The Centennial Pale Ale, a collaboration between Oskar Blues and the Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG), will be the first symposium beer in CBC history to be brewed using 100% local ingredients, says Steve Kurowski of the CBG.
|Malts||Colorado Malting Company|
|Hops||Colorado Hop Yard, Rising Sun Hop Farms, High Wire Hops, Todd Hops, Oskar Blues Hops & Heifers farm, New Belgium Brewing|
|Yeast||Brewing Science Institute|
|Test Batch||Brewed at Strange Brewing Company|
|Final Batch||Brewed at Oskar Blues Brewery|
|Packaging||Canned in 19.2 oz cans from Ball Corporation|
The majority of the 50-barrel batch of Centennial Pale Ale will be served at the Convention Center during the Craft Brewers Conference, which boasts approximately 7,000 attendees, more than 450 exhibiting companies, and 145 presenters each year. According to Kurowski, however, those who are not attending festivities at the Convention Center can find the specialty brew on tap at a few select accounts, which have yet to be determined.
“Craft beer is part of the Colorado DNA,” says Kurowski. “Boulder Beer, the nation’s first micro-brewery opened in 1979. The [Brewer’s Association] is located in Boulder. The GABF comes to Denver every year. Craft brewing economic impact in the state will reach $1 billion in the next year or two. And our governor is a brewer.”
Needless to say, Colorado’s craft brewing culture is setting an example. Not only are local brewers producing some innovative beers, but also the Centennial State is pioneering a way of thinking within the industry. The Colorado brewing community is a close-knit microcosm of people working hard to promote and support each other to push beer forward and solidify its standing within local culture.
Talk of oversaturation of breweries has been circulating for over a year now, but we have yet to see brewery growth slow down. In fact, more than 20 breweries are in the works for this year alone, bringing the total number of breweries in Denver to nearly 50 and pushing Colorado well over the 200 mark by the end of 2014. Sure, unique concepts are keeping growth alive, but more so, it seems to be the collaborative spirit of the brewing community that allows new breweries to succeed so quickly. Through pilot and contract brews at existing breweries, to advice from longtime brewers, the passing of pro-brewery legislation, and support from the Denver drinking community, collaboration has proved to be the driving force in creating The Napa Valley of Beer.
“The Colorado craft beer culture is helping pave the way for emerging markets across the country. Other states are adopting similar legislation as Colorado to help craft brewers see more success,” says Kurowski. “Also, Colorado craft brewers work with each other, not against each other. We all feel that a rising tide will raise all ships.”
To show off this unique quality of Denver’s beer scene, the kick-off event to Colorado Craft Beer Week, March 21-29, is Collaboration Fest on Saturday, March 22 at The Curtis Hotel, 3-7 p.m. The first event of its kind, Collab Fest features more than 40 collaboration beers brewed specifically for this festival.
While a genuine respectful and collaborative spirit is what sets Denver apart in the craft brewing world, the industry works hard to play hard together: See footage from the first ever brewery pageant, “Masters of the Brewniverse.”
“It’s an amazing time to be part of Colorado’s craft beer scene, we feel lucky to be part of it,” says Melis. “The creativity and personality of each brewery continues to offer new tasting options and challenge beer drinkers. It’s amazing to see how Colorado is embracing their local, hand-crafted beer scene.”
Chris Bruns also contributed to this article.