Denver, aka the Mile High City, is arguably the best beer city in the country. Home of the Great American Brewers Festival, the Brewers Association, and more breweries and pubs than you can shake a stick at, it's unarguably in the Top 5 US beer cities. I made my first visit recently for the aforementioned GABF, and in my 5 day trip I visited 6 breweries in Denver and as many taphouses, plus another 3 breweries in Fort Collins, about an hour out of the city. I also attended media events and behind-the-scenes parties put on by the Brewers Association and others, and I learned two things: Denver is an inferior beer city to Portland and that the future of American Craft Beer lies in the progress of craft beer-loving foodies and homebrewers.
One of the highlights of the trip was a media luncheon held by the Brewers Association where we lucked out getting a table with these guys (below: Charlie Papazian, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sam Calagione). Here we were treated to an amazing coursed and paired brewers lunch, with every pairing featuring a different brewery and each brewer getting up to the podium to speak about their small brewery, each of them in a different state of play. Kevin Krompton of Epic Ales in Salt Lake City dropped the astounding news that his brewery is running 24/7 to produce between 15,000 and 20,000 barrels a year on just a 10bbl brewhouse. Epic also bottles virtually all of its beer to get around Utah's stilted alcohol laws.
|left to right: Charlie Papazian, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sam Calagione|
|New Belgium's Kim Jordan speaks at the Media Luncheon|
As an occasional writer for the Brewers Association's public outreach arm, CraftBeer.com, I know that the BA is big on promoting food as an accompaniment to beer and vice versa. As Full Sail CEO Irene Firmat pointed out, too long has craft brewing ceded ground to winemakers as the sole alcoholic beverage that pairs well with food, especially cheese and chocolate.
The Great American Brewers Festival doubled down on craft beer and food's intersection with the debut of two new sections of the festival, the Brewpub Pavilion and the Farm to Table Pavilion. The brewpub area was located in a cordoned off section in the center of the festival floor that was still open to the public. Because the pavilion was roped off, though, I think a lot of people did not venture in there because they weren't sure if it was a special section and just anyone could enter. Inside, brewpubs from around the country were pouring samples of their beer paired up with small plates of food for an additional charge. It was a bit of a cluster in there, so I must admit I tried nothing.
My overall takeaway: Oregon could really step up in both the homebrewing communities and more respect for beer at the dinner table. Recently, at the American Homebrewers Conference, the Oregon homebrewing community walked away with no competition wins, while clubs all over the rest of the country racked up wins. There was almost no one representing Oregon at all. Recent high end restaurant openings in PDX have put beer on the backburner while hiring sommeliers and mixologists to head up the alcohol programs. It's time for our local scene to step up its game when it comes to mixing beer and high-end cuisine.