The proposed ban on all alcohol in Wash Park has been vanquished! The zero-tolerance policy spearheaded by Councilman Chris Nevitt was intended to curb public drunkenness and make for a safer, more respectable park experience but opponents claimed it was the lackadaisical enforcement of the rules which resulted in unruly crowds and that many of those cited for violations were under the influence of hard liquor—a substance that’s always been banned in Denver’s public parks.
The great American tradition of BBQing in the park with brewski in hand is safe; the status quo remains and beer is still allowed in Wash Park. 3.2 beer, that is, which presents a problem for Denver’s myriad craft beer lovers—there aren’t a lot of options in the 3.2 section of the liquor store.
3.2 beer, so named because it’s 3.2% alcohol by weight (which is actually 4.3% alcohol by volume), is typically bland—usually an even more watered-down version of a macrobrew—and sold in very few places because, really, what liquor store wants to carry a brand that tastes worse than an already bad beer and takes longer to get their customers buzzed? 3.2 doesn’t have a lot of selling points.
Even the newfangled session beers that hit the craft market in recent years are usually a few decimal points above the legal limit: Odell’s Loose Leaf is 4.5% ABV, Great Divide’s Lasso is 5% ABV, Avery’s Joe’s Pilsner is 4.7% ABV, Upslope’s Craft Lager is 4.8% ABV, and even the national face of session beers, Full Sail’s Session Premium Lager, is 5.1% ABV. What’s a beer geek to do?
Sarah Spivey, a resident of the Wash Park neighborhood and one of the leading opponents of the total alcohol ban, has the solution. In an open letter to the breweries of Denver, Spivey laid down a challenge: brew a unique, flavorful, high-quality 3.2 beer for the purpose of Wash Park consumption. “We as Denver Park Patrons could promote the heck out of them,” says Spivey. “And, you, as local microbrewers would help promote legal alcohol consumption in the parks.” Spivey even has a few ideas for names: “P3 – Pissy Park Pale, Park Proud Pilsner…Park Potty Porter…Wash Wit, Park Volley Bock.”
Consider the possibilities: all the regional breweries making at least one 3.2 beer. Those who can and bottle could distribute to the liquor stores closest to Wash Park with growler-only breweries helping to supplement. It has the potential to be a municipality-wide trend, a mission the Mile High City becomes known for, a collaborative effort to be the envy of all other craft beer cities.
It will prove that Denver’s not just about drinking beer, it’s about drinking beer responsibly. It would be a new sub-style of craft beer; people already discuss their favorite IPA, their favorite stout, now they can talk about their favorite Wash Park beer. And imagine the creative concoctions that’ll flow forth from Denver’s master brewers! With the constraint of a 4.3% ABV, brewers will be forced to conjure up new and innovative ways to make great beer around the self-imposed restriction and park-goers will be better off for it. Who knows, perhaps several years from now, when the 3.2 craft beer craze is well-established, we’ll see the 3.2 Brew Fest hosted at Wash Park.
If you’re a Denver beer geek and you love being outside on one of Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine (i.e. that includes pretty much everybody), go to your neighborhood craft brewery and let the staff know you’re in favor of the 3.2 beer movement. Most Denver breweries are aware of the idea because Spivey already floated the idea past them but, in the end, this is a grassroots campaign. You, Denver drinker, must voice your opinion, let the brewers know this is what you want. When it becomes clear enough people demand 3.2 beer for Wash Park, breweries will listen and Denver will be in an all-too-familiar position—at the forefront of a craft beer revolution.