I moved to Colorado a little over 5 years ago with the hopes of becoming a student at the University of Colorado Boulder. When I moved here, my diet rapidly shifted. Growing up, I had always wanted to buy products that were produced locally and made from simple ingredients. In Boulder, it is fairly easy to find these products that are both healthy and affordable. Needless to say, I became a bit obsessed with the local food movement! As a result, when I turned 21, my beer purchasing behavior was no different. To this day, I will always pick up a 6-pack of Avery White Rascal over Miller Lite. Recently, I started to wonder whether other states are experiencing the same craft beer craze that is happening in Colorado. My research took me in a direction that was both surprising and inspiring.
The craft brewing industry is a nation-wide phenomenon. According to the Brewers Association, independent craft brewers hold 12.3% market share of the U.S. beer industry. This may seem like a small percentage, but that is compared to only 5.7% in 2011. It quickly became clear to me that the brew buzz in Colorado is not unique. I was fascinated as to how this industry made such a large splash in such a short amount of time. I discovered that there are three main reasons why craft breweries are popping up all across the nation. The first being the unique job opportunities that they offer struggling communities. Beer tourism is another factor that has increased the popularity of craft breweries. Beer tourism involves individuals who travel to the brewery that makes their favorite beer. It is similar to the tourism that Napa Valley attracts, but there are breweries in every state, which makes this touristic venture much more accessible to people all over the country. These first two are monetary in nature, but the last reason has nothing to do with money and is still the most valuable of all. The most impactful aspect of craft brewing is the physical space itself. A craft brewery is a unique destination that is perfect for building communal bonds.
A place for people to interact without technology is much needed in our modern world. To a certain extent that is what a craft brewery is. Jim Morrison of the Smithsonian Magazine puts it very plainly, “You won’t find people hypnotized by giant television screens blaring sports or their smartphones at a place like this. You’ll find them talking at community tables, maybe playing a game of Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, or cribbage, or intensely removing one piece at a time from a giant Jenga set.” A few weeks back, I went with a few friends out to Avery Brewing Company, a brewery just east of Boulder. I was actually quite moved by the scene of people throwing bean bags and playing other backyard barbeque classics. Something that struck me as particularly neat was the fact that many of the patrons had children with them. This speaks to the inherent differences of a craft brewery that separate it from a bar. People are not going to a craft brewery to get drunk, they are making the trip so that they can have a memorable experience.
If reading this piece has made you want to visit a craft brewery, then have no fear. There are over twenty breweries right in the Boulder County area, and I am going to give you my top 3 personal favorites. Avery Brewing Company is always a fan favorite. Their tap room is massive, and they offer delicious food, as well. Another great thing about Avery Brewing Company is their philanthropic efforts. According to the first half of their service mission statement, “Our passion is beer, and we have the utmost respect for people whose passion is growing our arts community; or ensuring everyone has access to safe drinking water; or addressing homelessness; or encouraging folks to be active stewards of our public lands; or allowing people with disabilities to experience skiing.” They work with thirty different non-profit organizations in the Rocky Mountain region, providing either money or beer, and sometimes both. Another favorite brewery in the “Boulder Bubble” is Boulder Beer which recently opened up at a new location on Walnut Street, right next to the Pearl Street Mall. Located right in the heart of town, this is a spot where you can build communal bonds without having to make a large trek. To build a fun sense of community, they host an array of events, anything from live music to ugly sweater parties. Lastly, Upslope’s Flatiron Park brewery is a must see. They have a beautiful patio and brew some of the best beers in town. Another bonus of this brewery are the food trucks that come through each day, offering a diverse array of culinary options from local restaurants. The Upslope brewers pride themselves on “supplying Colorado with trailhead tallboys, and pow-day libations made from the freshest snow melt, the finest hops and the purest passion for living life outdoors.” I recommend getting out there and drinking some delicious suds at one of these local breweries. A helpful resource is a map produced by craftbeer.com that allows you to search for local breweries in your area.
The recent growth of the craft brewing industry is much like the current popularity of the local food movement. Consumers are finally demanding that products are made with authenticity and integrity. It has been a slow and steady transition, but I am confident that it is the beginning of a full-on food revolution. Hopefully, we will soon be able to say goodbye to the days of factory farming and the industrial-scale beer that comes with it.