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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.