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Monday, April 14, 2008

Beervana Responds

Joel Stein has an article in Time Magazine that lauds Denver as the "best place for brewery-touring." By all accounts, Denver's a good beer town. As are Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Normally, I could overlook an article putting Denver on top--what's a quibble between cities. But the Stein has to go and say something like this:
Sure, Portland, Ore., has more microbrew outlets, but many of its 46 brewhouses are brewpubs, which produce beer only for their own bars, and part of the fun of a beer tour is seeing where bottles you can buy at home are manufactured.
He qualifies what he thinks of as "best" this way:
The best place for brewery-touring is Denver, partly because of its water, partly because it's the home of Coors and partly because skier, mountain-biker and hiker dudes love them some beer.... [D]enver, dubbed the Napa of Beer, is the most tourist-friendly. It has 74 breweries within 100 miles (160 km) of downtown, restaurants that often offer beer-vs.-wine pairings, the yearly Great American Beer Festival and the country's first chief beer officer.
It's one thing to cite Denver as the best, and it might even be permissible to slag Portland in doing so (at least it demonstrates you realize what the competition is), but to go on and give Denver the nod because it is the home to Coors and is also the Napa of Beer--well, that's going too far. Stein has officially identified himself as a bonehead.

Normally, I would take the wood to him myself, but instead, I turn over the floor to Brian Butenschoen, Director of the Oregon Brewer's Guild, who quickly put out the stats (compressed slightly and re-formatted). Denver's the best beer town? You be the judge.
Within 120 miles from Portland you have:
  • 68 breweries producing about 660,000 BBL's of beer.
  • The largest all craft beer festival, attendance wise, in the U.S. at 60,000 people in Portland.
  • Portland currently has 32 breweries if you still count BJ's, and Deschutes - which opens May 2nd.
  • Portland has the Horse Brass.
  • Portland is the largest craft beer market in the United States.
  • Oregon breweries supply about 40% of the beer sold on draft in Oregon.
Denver has 10 breweries - could be less or more:
  • Craft breweries in Colorado lag about 100 to 200,000 BBL's behind Oregon in production.
  • Denver has the GABF, the North American beer fest with the most beers to try.
  • Denver has the Falling Rock.
  • Coloradoans cannot buy craft beer in the supermarket.
  • Colorado has probably 15-16 packaging breweries I've had out of the bottle.
Oregon has a very strong and very unique relationship to craft beer on draft. Craft beer by volume made in the US was 3.8% in 2007. In Oregon, about 40% of the draft beer sold in Oregon is made in Oregon.

I think it's pretty interesting that if Denver is the Napa Valley of beer that the author only names going to two Denver breweries, Wynkoop and Bull and Bush while in Denver.
A pretty fair rebuttal.

[Update: the estimable New Mexican Stan Hieronymus puts his vote in for the Rose City. ]


  1. Let em think that. That just means I get to drink more of the good stuff.

  2. That Time magazine article completely forgot about all of the breweries in the Fort Collins area (including the massive Budweiser plant, New Belgium, Odell's, Fort Collins Brewery, etc) that are all within 1 hour of Denver. Denver simply doesn't have the lock on all of the best breweries in the state. You also have to factor in that there are over 75+ breweries in the state that produced over 23 billion barrels of beer in 2006 and I'm sure that figure was even higher for 2007. While Oregon has a lot of great craft breweries, by sheer volume alone, it doesn't come close to outputting the amount of beer that Colorado does.

    The statement about Colorado not being able to buy craft beer in supermarkets makes me chuckle because nobody really cares about beer in a supermarket here. Supermarkets don't have the shelf space to dedicate to all that great craft beer out there. That's why we have some of the biggest and best liquor stores in the country. Just yesterday Colorado passed a law to allow Sunday liquor sales. It still prevents supermarkets and convenience stores from selling anything but 3.2% beer. And that market will soon go away since nobody really wanted to buy that stuff anyway - it was just the fact that supermarkets were the only place to buy beer on Sunday. Now that's a thing of the past as of July 1st.

  3. Any town that boasts Breckenridge (let's call it a Denver brewery for argument's sake), Great Divide and Coors, has firmly established itself as a place for mediocre beers. But what strikes me as a key difference is the (perhaps Rogue inspired?) proliferation of the 22oz bottles of really great, non-mass market beers that have become so popular in Oregon. I don't remember any of that from my recent six years in Denver. Most of the time I was in Denver I was looking far and wide for Oregon Beers because the Colorado options in my mind were mostly mediocre.

  4. Ah, yes, Napa. Land of my birth, and my father's birth, and his mother's birth, and her father's birth...

    Let me tell you something about Napa. In the scant 30 years that I have walked this Earth, the beautiful golden hills have been stripped of oak trees and planted with vines, which have since then been pulled out to make way for houses that no one making under $150,000 a year can afford. People who made their money in various and sundry ways thought it would be neato to have a winery in Napa, so they move in and make sure their laborers cannot afford to live in town. Then they create wines so mediocre for such insane prices that the Charles Shaw folks roll in and clean up.

    And 10 million dollars can be raised in one year for the Copia center, however it takes over a decade to raise a measly $900,000 for a Boys and Girls Club in a town that has a mandatory curfew of 10pm on the weekends (you don't want to know how many times I got rousted for that).

    Denver can be the Napa of Beer. I'm glad I now live in Beervana.

  5. I think the author also says it all when he says: "I don't really like beer."

    Ah, no wonder he likes Denver better. Enjoy the Coors Light!

  6. Sure.

    Next, let's send the guy who hates theatre to do a review of the local high school play.

    Where's the "eye roll" icon when you need it?

  7. Looks like the verdict is in: a raspberry from the Rose City.

  8. Jeff, Nice rebuttal & thanks for defending Beervana.

  9. Denver may have Coors, but we have Weinhards. Well, sorta. Denver's a great beer town, but they have to realize where they are getting the ingredients to make it. Kind of like touting Vegas as best town with a Statue of Liberty.