Clearview Library hosts talk on the history of Colorado beer | MyWindsorNow.com
Emily Wenger
ewenger@mywindsornow.com

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Clearview Library hosts talk on the history of Colorado beer

When beer is hard to find, Coloradans make their own.

Jason Hanson, History Colorado's director of interpretation and research, said homebrewing played a prominent role in leading to the more than 300 breweries currently in Colorado.

"This is absolutely the best time and Colorado is the best place to be a beer drinker," he said.

Hanson was speaking at High Hops Brewery Tuesday evening to kick off the Clearview Library District's Summer Adventure Program for adults. The children's kickoff was held late last month.

As around 30 area residents sipped High Hops brews, Hanson walked the crowd through beer's journey to and in Colorado.

Frederick Salomon opened the first brewery in Colorado, Rocky Mountain Brewery, with some help from John Good and Charles Tascher, Hanson said.

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The Denver brewery opened in 1859 during the first wave of the gold rush and mining crowds to hit the state.

Although beer had been in America since shortly after settlers landed, Hanson said, beer didn't travel well and businesses felt there was more profit to be had in liquor. That's also why cowboys drank whiskey, Hanson said, because beer would have spoiled after hot days on the trail.

Lager beer, he said, came to Colorado with the German population, and stayed the main beer in Colorado until after World War II, in part because young people had been overseas and discovered more beer existed than just lagers. This was also a factor in the rising popularity of homebrewing, as people began to make their own varieties of beer.

In the past, Hanson said, people drank a bit more than we do now, and in the Early 1900s Coloradans drank around 23 gallons per person each year, with Denver residents averaging 43 gallons. The average consumption for Americans was between 20-21 gallons each year.

"Coloradans have always liked beer a little more than most people," he said.

When prohibition hit in the early 1900s, and Coors, one of few breweries to survive prohibition, was up and running, the business did not lay off anyone but began making other products like malted milk.

After prohibition, Coors beer became so popular, in the 1970s a case would sell for the equivalent of more than $60 in Washington, D.C., Hanson said.

"And it had been in somebody's hot trunk for a week at that point," he said.

Its popularity was due in part to its advertising, Hanson said, because it included the mountains and streams of Colorado.

"Coors and John Denver probably did more to create a Colorado brand for the rest of the world than anything else," he said, at which the audience chuckled.

During prohibition in Colorado, Hanson said, homebrewing — what he said "Auggie" Busch called the "great indoor sport of prohibition" — began to take off because there were some loopholes in Colorado law. From 1916 to 1920, the main focus of state law was that the sale of alcohol was prohibited, and Hanson said law enforcement tended to look the other way from homebrewing as long as the beer was not being sold.

Post-prohibition, a nuclear engineer was one of the people who sparked homebrewing in Colorado.

Charlie Papazian began to play with homebrewing in the 1970s, even though it had become illegal post-prohibition. He founded the American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association.

Papazian came to Colorado, Hanson said, because he enjoyed the Colorado outdoors, but because, in part, he had difficulty finding a job in his field he began teaching homebrewing classes. Papazian was one of many homebrewers that helped kick start a rise in craft beer.

Because homebrewing took off, craft beer became a "lifestyle amenity" in Colorado, Hanson said.

"The reason that Colorado is such a center of gravity for the craft brewing industry is simply because Charlie Papazian, like many many other people, came to Colorado because he liked mountains, he liked camping, he liked hiking," he said.

Homebrewing, Hanson said, is where craft beer originated, giving rise to the many breweries found in Colorado today.

To go on a summer adventure

For more information about the Clearview Library District’s Summer Adventure Program, visit bit.ly/WindsorSummerAdventure.

Upcoming event

The next activity for adults in the Summer Adventure Program will be a D.I.Y Faire and Swap Meet from noon-3 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Windsor-Severance Library. The event will include topics like car maintenance, coffee roasting and candle-making, and food truck will be on site during the event. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by and adult, according to the library’s website.