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history of denver, as it relates to drinking

The Interesting History of Denver, as it Relates to Drinking

 

The history of Denver, as it relates to drinking, extends to the city’s first permanent drinking establishment. The city’s first saloon opened its doors when Denver was still considered a frontier town. At that time, the location had already gone through the gold boom and had developed into a goods and supply hub for miners who had money to spare. Within its first 50 years as a city, Denver welcomed more than 400 saloons. Drinking has been a large part of Denver’s unique culture ever since.

A handful of Denver’s original historical drinking establishments still stand. For instance, the Buckhorn Exchange, founded in 1893, holds the distinction of being issued the state’s first liquor license. The bar was erected to serve migrant railroad workers, but exists today as an iconic Denver landmark that is a National Historic Landmark. A total of five American Presidents have dined at the Buckhorn Exchange, where they were given the distinct pleasure of being seated among the bar’s 575-piece taxidermy exhibit.

Gone are the days in Denver when one could only legally consume alcohol via a doctor’s prescription. Today, the city ranks fifth in the United States among the number of craft breweries per capita. There are currently approximately 15 craft breweries per 500,000 Denver residents. The numbers increase significantly each year. However, the older historical establishments retain the allure of their history.

If you are interested in finding out more about the drinking history of Denver, along with more recent and delightful microbrewery discoveries, please contact us to schedule a Denver Microbrew Tour, where our seasoned professional tour guides will entice you with interesting beer trivia as you sample local offerings.

 


history of denver, as it relates to drinking

History of Drinking in Denver: Traveling Back in Time Never Tasted So Good

The next time you drink a cold one in Denver, know that you are swallowing some hard-fought history. Legalized marijuana wasn’t the first time this Wild West city fought for its right to party. The similarities between both the liquor and marijuana battles lend to the cliché; history repeats itself.

In his book Moonshine and Murder: Prohibition in Denver, author James E. Hansen II describes the decades long battle between temperance groups, the city of Denver, and the state of Colorado. According to Hansen’s account, the battle began in the 1860’s, with Denver rejecting every attempt by the state and local temperance groups to “go dry” until well into the 20th century.

And if you consider all the interesting historical details about Denver’s loving relationship with beer to begin with, the sixty year battle makes a lot of sense. Or suds.

Traveling back in time never tasted so good.

Here are 6 interesting facts about Denver’s longstanding relationship with beer.

  1. Miners and pioneers brewed and sold beer right out of their tents and the back of their wagons since the city’s founding in 1859.
  2. Denver’s first city government was formed in a saloon called Apollo Hall located at 1425 Larimer Street; the building still stands today.
  3. After stowing away aboard a ship from Hamburg to New York City, Adolph Coors made it to the Wild West and founded the Coors Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado (roughly thirty driving minutes west of Denver) in 1873. The brewery still uses the same original 44 natural Rocky Mountain springs to this day.
  4. In 1907, state legislature enacted a local option bill which permitted Colorado cities to decide whether or not to go dry. Denver resisted, and voted to keep their spirits.
  5. In 1914, Colorado decided that “no person or group could manufacture or import, except for medicinal or sacramental purposes, any intoxicating liquors”. Though the measure was successful throughout most of the state, Denver rejected prohibition once again with a local vote landslide. Note that liquor was legal if it was for medicinal purposes. Sound familiar?
  6. After 1916, Denver was forced into prohibition just like the rest of the country. Like many cities during Prohibition, the rules only applied to the people, never the officials who imposed them. Gahan’s Saloon, located at 1401 Larimer Street was known as the “Soft Drink Parlor” which was code for a liquor-flowing speakeasy that was frequented by cops, politicians, and reporters.

Conclusion

That same independent and entrepreneurial spirit that fought for the right to enjoy a beer or some liquor, still lives on in Colorado’s capital city. These days, Denver is known as the “Napa Valley of Beer”; and brews more suds on any given day than any other city in the United States.

Thirsty yet?

The Denver Microbrew Tour is a history-packed guided walking tour of historic lower downtown Denver and its world-famous microbreweries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can share even more cool history about the Mile High City – and buy you a pint.


Wynkoop Brewing Company

Wynkoop Brewing Company, Historically Crafted

Wynkoop Brewing Company is so much more than Denver’s first brewpub; it’s housed in a building that is steeped in the city’s mining and railroad history. Though the J.S. Brown Mercantile Building was not built until 1899, the area it is built on and the owner, John Sidney Brown, had been doing business with miners, brewers and grocers since 1861.

It’s almost like history set the stage for Wynkoop‘s successful destiny: world-renowned craft beer and New American pub grub.

And, it’s as if the building itself was meant to be tied to historical events forever.

In 1868, J.S. Brown was among the men who broke ground for the railroad in Denver. A strong advocate and key player (alongside other historical names like George Morrison and Governor John Evans) in bringing the railroad to Denver, Brown lobbied and raised money until the completion of Union Station, 13 years later.

With his business located directly across the street from Union Station, the building was meant for success.

In 1902, the Mercantile building made the news again, and was named “a magnificent structure, fitted up in a perfectly modern style, having railroad switches in its front and rear, and every convenience necessary for the prompt transacting of business” by the Denver Times (Denver Post).

Fast forward 80 plus years, and the building is still making history.

In 1988, a relatively unknown and laid-off geologist by the name of John Hickenlooper started the Wynkoop Brewing Company inside the old Mercantile building.

Mr. Hickenlooper went on to become the Mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011. He was then elected as Governor of Colorado and assumed office on January 11, 2011.

But the political fame for the famous brewpub doesn’t stop there.

On a normal Tuesday in July of 2014, President Obama made a surprise visit to the unsuspecting brewpub. It was widely reported that Mr. Obama enjoyed a Rail Yard, the pub’s best-selling ale; and played a friendly game of pool with GovernorHickenlooper.

Wynkoop Brewing Company has and always will be connected to and making history. The experience of the historic atmosphere and the quality, crafted beer make this destination a Denver institution.

Want to experience the magic of Wynkoop Brewing Company in person and learn more? Check out these brewing tours today!