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An ethnic history of Denver, as it relates to drinking

 

Ethnicity is a key to the history of Denver, and at the center of ethnicity are the saloons each group established, clustered around Larimer St.

There’s no better way to get a feeling for the origins of this town than via a history of Denver, as it relates to drinking. Early residents of Denver, no matter their ethnic origins, enjoyed a good beer. While all groups enjoyed beer, they enjoyed it most in the company of their own ethnic group, where they could relax and enjoy the comfort of their native languages and cultures.

Originally part of the Territory of Kansas, what became the Denver area was sparsely settled until 1858, when three different groups established settlements in the area. General William Larimer, a land speculator from eastern Kansas, jumped the St. Charles claim and staked his own one-mile square claim, renaming it “Denver” after the governor of the Territory of Kansas, James Denver.

Although Denver didn’t “pan out” as a mining community despite an initial flurry of activity, it grew rapidly as a supply hub once the Gold Rush began. General Larimer’s claim, and the saloons around Larimer St., were at the center of activity as immigrant communities found themselves at home in them. Various ethnic groups “relished their taverns as ethnic clubs and community centers for a wide range of social, political, and economic activities.”

By 1880, more than 1/3 of Denver saloons were German-owned. Inside these establishments, “customers could speak and sing German, enjoy German music and dance, read German newspapers and magazines, procure strudel and sauerkraut, and quaff German beer and wine.” The best-known of these German establishments was Turn Hall, established in 1889.

Germans were wealthy and politically powerful in Denver and enjoyed great influence until first, Prohibition in 1916, then World War II, diminished their influence. Because of their wealth and prominence in the saloon business of Denver, Prohibitionists targeted them, and many Germans lost their jobs in the liquor industry. Irrational hatreds related to the War made life even more difficult for Denver’s German population.

Nonetheless, Denver benefited from German music and culture — and enjoyed Bock Beer Day. In 1874, “Otto Heinrich ‘s saloon at Sixteenth and Larimer set the record for Bock Beer Day, serving some 3,000 glasses of beer, 50 loaves of bread, and 125 pounds of meat.”

Many Irish arrived as part of the railroad crews and settled in working class neighborhoods near the tracks. Also well-received, Irishmen soon established bars strategically placed between their homes near the tracks and their jobs. Irish saloons promoted Irish clubs and organizations, Gaelic literature, lectures and band music and distributed the Rocky Mountain Celt, the “only” Irish-American newspaper in the West.

By 1900, the Irish were less than 3% of Denver’s population, but they owned 10% of the bars. Irish political clout came from a triangular partnership between saloon owners, politicians and policemen. “Saloon-keeping Irish councilmen included James Doyle, John Conlon, Andrew Horan and William Gahan. Of these bartending aldermen, one of the most successful and long-lived was Eugene Madden. Madden served nine consecutive city council terms with strong support from his Larimer Street saloon and the nearby police department, where his brother was a captain.”

Like other ethnic groups, Jews found the liquor business relatively easy to enter. Albert Wongrowitz’s popular saloon and delicatessen, located next to a synagogue, was one of the first sources of kosher food. Despite anti-Semitism, Jewish immigrants, many originating from Germany, were successful in Denver. The fact that Denver elected a Jewish mayor in 1889 signified a relatively easier integration process. Blacks, Asians and Italians suffered from more violent and intensive discrimination.

Italians, recruited as cheap labor for the railroads and other industries, suffered from a more unwelcoming reception in Denver, but they, too, eased their entry by establishing saloons that served them as cultural centers.

Starting in tents and shacks in the bottomlands, and operating grocery carts and businesses, Italians, with the help of more well-established compatriots with whom they connected in the Italian saloons, eventually achieved success and moved into the tree-shaded neighborhoods of north Denver. Here they established popular restaurants and bars. Italians, who viewed consumption of alcohol as healthy, were largely unaffected by Prohibition, simply moving into their basements.

Finally, the Slavs (Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, Serbs, Croats, Poles, and Russians, including many Russian Jews and non-Slavic Germans from Russia) established a significant community in Denver. By 1920, the Russians became the single largest group immigrating to Colorado.

The Slavs settled in Globeville, the smelter factory town just north of Denver. As had other ethnic groups before them, the Slavs enjoyed their many saloons in Globeville, not only for the beverages but as community centers. Like the saloons in other poor areas, these also served as banks.

Among the many cultural institutions that immigrant groups brought to Denver, saloons were perhaps the most numerous and conspicuous. They played a key role in bringing their customers into American life and into the life of the city. Few immigrant taverns reappeared after Prohibition, but the effects of these influential business qua community centers remain.

In 1988, it became legal in Colorado to produce and sell beer to retail customers on the same premises. The WynkoopBrewing Company ran a close race against Carver Brewery to claim the title as the oldest micro-brewery in Denver.

John Hickenlooper, founder of the Wynkoop Brewing Company and now governor of the state, looks back on those anxious early days. He remembers the all-consuming effort required to open Wynkoop first, which it did on October 18, 1988, selling 6,000 cups of beer at 25 cents each.

Today Denver continues to enjoy its beer in its many micro-breweries. For more information or to schedule a micro-brewery tour, please contact us.

 


Craft Beer Spotlight: Do You Dabble in Doppelbocks?

 

In today’s craft beer spotlight, curious drinkers want to know, “Do you dabble in doppelbocks?” It’s a brew style that was purportedly given to us centuries ago by Paulaner monks. They were active during the 1600s, when European brew masters were bound by the Bavarian Purity Requirement. Although originally consumed around the Easter holidays, it’s a style now enjoyed year round.

Craft beer drinkers who’ve previously imbibed a tulip glass full or two will likely recognize its sensuous, clear, copper color and toasted barley aroma. The malts used to make doppelbocks will generally vary depending on the brewer. However, they tend to be of German origin. The same may be said for the yeast and hops.

Consequently, the brews generally lack in carbonation and bitterness, which makes them perfect for pairing with desserts, meats or cheeses. As such, they tend to be very popular wherever food is also served. However, don’t let that little detail keep you from downing a glass without a plate of food at your side. They are full-bodied enough to stand up on their own.

Just keep in mind that drinkers who decide to dabble in doppelbocks may also expect their beverages of choice to have soft bodies, medium finishes and a hefty dose of alcohol. So having one too many on an empty stomach may knock teetotalers for a real loop. With that said, we generally suggest that microbrew tour patrons eat a little something before knocking back several dopplebocks.

Where can one find an excellent dopplebock in Denver for their money? Aah, now that’s a question that our dopplebock-loving tour guides can answer with ease. There are many great German bocks available in the Mile High City. To find out exactly where they are and how to get one’s curious hands on one, please contact us today.

 


Law and thirst shaped Denver’s beer history

 

By the time the frontier settlement of Denver was just two years old, following an initial mad dash to scoop up gold at the Platte River, there were already 35 saloons built and pouring. Pioneer Denver figured out just about everything in a local bar. Because constructing churches, schools and other community meeting halls lagged behind, Denver had no choice but to invent itself over drinks. The first city government gavelled itself to order at a saloon called the Apollo Hall, in the original Larimer Square. That was just respectable enough to get things going. However, the city fathers appear to have had the sense that some restraint might be in order, so an early law stipulated that booze couldn’t be sold on the streets or out of wagons and tents.

In the 20th century, a chain reaction started that would propel Denver to a unique status in the American craft beer revolution. In 1976, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill to adjust the legislation that had ended prohibition. The earlier repeal allowed citizens to legally make wine at home again starting in 1933, but it failed to mention beer, so home brewers were still practicing their hobby underground, with limited access to ingredients, supplies and recipes. At the time of the legalization of home brewing, a Boulder, Colorado resident and experienced brewing enthusiast named Charlie Papazian launched a homebrew newsletter, followed by writing a beer recipe book and then by forming national associations for both amateur and professional brewers, both based in Colorado. These steps led eventually to the massive gathering known as the Great American Beer Festival, still held annually in Denver. By welcoming top beers and brewers from other regions to town for this elite brewing competition every year, Denver’s local brewers may have gained an advantage in understanding brewing quality and diversity without having to get on an airplane themselves. Taste local examples with us and see if you agree.

The free-flowing history of Denver, as it relates to drinking, is full of delightful tales that we love to tell on our beer walking tours. Whether you are a visitor or a proud resident, a seasoned beer appreciator or a craft brew novice, contact us to walk Denver for a taste of beer history, along with guided sample flights that will let you find the current local brew you love the best.

 


“Blue Moon Isn’t Craft Beer,” Says Pending Class Action Lawsuit

 

craft beer

One of the criteria that craft beers must meet is that yearly production of the beer must be 6 million barrels or less.

While some classify craft beer as how a brew is crafted, or closely associated with a lifestyle they have chosen, the simple truth is, craft beer is an industry, with specific legal definitions, all in place for craft protection.

So because the Brewer’s Association defines American craft beer as an industry, it must fit into finite definitions that allow brewers and micro-brewers certain rights, benchmarks, and associated statistics broken into an applicable three categories:

1. Small: Yearly production of 6 million barrels of beer or less, with production attributed to the rules of alternatingproprietorships.

2. Independent: “Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.”

3. Traditional: Total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor is derived from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients as well as their fermentation.

What isn’t craft beer?

By definition, global beer conglomerate MillerCoors. More specifically, Blue Moon, their “craft style” beer. However, Blue Moon can not be a “craft beer” per the definition above, even though it is sometimes marketed as such.

For this reason, a man in California is taking a stand against MillerCoors.

On April 24, 2015, San Diego home brewer Evan Parent filed a class action lawsuit against MillerCoors (check out here), stating that they have been pulling the proverbial wool over the eyes of consumers who seek craft beer by overtly lying about what’s in the bottle and who makes it.

Mr. Parent is seeking an unspecified amount for damages for “misleading advertising and unfair competition.”

“What this case is really about,” he told his local news in this Huffington Post article, “is people think they’re buying craft beer and they’re actually buying crafty marketing.”

And that’s not all…

According to the lawsuit, Evan Parent claims that MillerCoors actively disassociates itself from Blue Moon in an attempt to mask their association. A scheme used as subterfuge, he implies, so those looking for craft beer at the grocery store won’t see through their elaborate ruse, and will buy Blue Moon instead of an actual craft beer.

Here is MillerCoorsresponse:

MillerCoors is tremendously proud of Blue Moon and has always embraced our ownership and support of this wonderful brand. The class action filed against MillerCoors in California is without merit and contradicted by Blue Moon Brewing Company’s 20-year history of brewing creative beers of the highest quality.

Unfortunately, “artfully crafted” isn’t part of the definition of craft beer… no matter how you spin it.

Then, of course, there is MillerCoors‘ production values: at 76 million barrels of beer produced annually, it’s difficult to consider Blue Moon, via MillerCoors, a “craft beer,” even if they designed it as such.

As for marketing, MillerCoors stands by the fact that they never actually said that Blue Moon was a craft beer, nor actively try to dictate otherwise.

It’s uncertain yet if a judge will throw this case out. Pending litigation hasn’t picked up speed, but the entire thing is very interesting.

What do you think about this case? Chime in below!

Feel free to contact us or more information or how we can help you.

 


4 Crazy Craft Beer Facts You Can Surprise Your Friends With

Remember taking your first sip of craft beer? There was no going back. You knew you found something amazing to appreciate and now you and your friends are regular craft beer enthusiasts. But here are a few facts you can introduce to your friends and impress them with, equipped with your craft beer knowledge.

Brewery Independence

craft beer

George Washington was one of the nation’s first craft brewers, and Barack Obama is one of the latest.

The beautiful thing about craft breweries across the United States is that each one is independent. Every brewery maintains a sense of traditionalism and hasn’t gone the corporate route by super-sizing their endeavors. This means that every craft beer creation is handled with meticulous care and attention, ensuring you get the freshest brew.

Where’s That Foam Coming From?

Want to know where that heaping amount of foam is coming from when you get a crisp craft beer? Foaming is created by a frosted, cold glass. So it’s really a win-win situation: your beer looks amazing and has the perfect chilled temperature so you can enjoy it on a scorching summer day.

Famous Home Brewers

If one of your hobbies is home brewing or simply enjoying home brewed beer, then you share a mutual interest with some Presidential types. That includes our first President George Washington and current President Barack Obama. Other Presidents who enjoyed brewing included James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Most Breweries

Curious to discover which states have the most breweries? Those would include California, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. California takes the title with the most establishments with its 330 different breweries.

For more information, please contact us today.