I am interested in the idea that beer is both a social lubricant and a social glue. Drinking good beer, to me, is a form of activism as it brings people together, inspires local economy, develops a sense of place or landfulness, and is known for shaping how people think about where their food comes from. Beer is an agent for social change. This fascinates me. The pint is a center for relational activity; sharing a pitcher is an activity that, by the end of the pitcher, will likely have inspired warming conversation and bonded people together. In my opinion, drinking together and community is at the center of well made beer. This is very different than the portrayal of beer as a means of getting drunk and getting laid, which is how industrial beers are often marketed.
So, here is the list of things I believe will make Colorado Springs a beer destination:
Bristol is the only brewery doing any major distribution. I've heard of Black Fox in Denver and I know that some breweries distribute to some smaller towns in the general region. But getting this city's beer to Denver, Ft. Collins and Boulder is really important because this is
where people currently go to experience Colorado beer. I'm all for having a small brewery with little or no distribution, not expanding beyond your means, keeping things really local and slow. I actually deeply value those things so if this is a part of your brewery's mission then good. If you would like to have your beer heralded across the country, then you need to produce more and distribute it. If people can get ahold of a six-pack or a bomber of your beer two hours away, they will make a point to visit the brewery next time they are in town because they will be familiar with the brand. Unless there's huge amounts of buzz about your beer and you continually win GABF medals, no one will really know or remember that you won one gold medal once. And if anyone does, it's just the beer geeks, not the majority of the population.
MORE BEER IN LOCAL RESTAURANTS
What about beers that pair well with foods? Rocky Mountain's Cyders and Da Yoopers would make lovely dessert drinks, or beers that pair with salads, so why not distribute a keg to a restaurant that serves well-made food. The server could then recommend a beer with dinner or dessert. Front Range BBQ is doing a good job at having both a delicious food menu, but then also a really good selection of beer that actually can go with the food. How about getting some Bierwerks at a German Restaurant? It seems like some brewery could get an account at a German Restaurant if they decided to regularly have a Pils, Lager, or Kölsch, etc. The point here is to get people who would never go to a tasting room, to be introduced to a local beer by pairing it with their food at a restaurant that usually only serves industrial lagers and imports. That might be the only way to reach someone who won't go to a liquor store. Which brings me to my next point...
BEER IN GROCERY STORES AND CONVENIENT STORES
|Beer in a grocery store!|
BREWPUBS AND BEER BARS
In my opinion Colorado Springs can add quite a few more brewpubs and pubs that serve good beer. We are nowhere near saturation. People always want to drink and the more places that serve good beer the better. People are beginning to wonder if Portland is saturated now with their near 40 breweries, an endless list of beer bars, and microbrews served at every dive. The general consensus is no, saturation has not been reached. The wild thing is that Portland is smaller geographically than Colorado Springs but you can't walk across the street without running into a place that has good beer. The more good beer there is, the more interested people become in it. If you've had entrepreneurial impulses, I think now is your time to shine.
CENTRALLY LOCATED BEER SPOTS
I'm not just referring to downtown, but I will speak to downtown for a moment. We currently have Phantom Canyon, Brewer's Republic, Old Chicago, and a couple other places that are serving craft beer downtown. In my opinion there could be at least two more breweries and three more beer pubs right now downtown. People would hop from one place to the next, or just choose the one that's closest to wherever they need to be. The less driving that takes place between beer destinations the better. But by centrally located beer spots, I also am referring to neighborhood pubs. I really don't see any of these in this town. I would really like to see good beer served close to residential areas so that people will be encouraged to walk to their local pub, have their own local pub, and meet the people they live next to. I live close enough to Brewer's Republic to walk there, I go there at least once a week and I have met a lot of really interesting people that I now hang out with often (not just at the pub). My new friends and I have good times together, we share stories, hang out at night, share our dreams with eachother, it's really a nice thing, and it's something I value deeply. The "public house" should be just that, the center for late night and down-to-earth socializing in a place that is easy to get to, easy to get home from, and comfortable to be in. Craft beer should be the central drink to the neighborhood pub.
INDEPENDENTLY OWNED DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS
Colorado Springs is chalked full of chain stores and chain restaurants. While often convenient, many of these places substitute quality for quantity and character for the familiar. Places like Old Chicago get a little under my skin because their menus are often the same, the servers (and yes even the bartenders) often don't know about all the 100+ beers they have, most of those beers aren't craft beers anyway, the atmosphere mimics a pub but doesn't feel like a pub (think cookie cutter), and you can tell that many employees don't care very much about what they're doing. Sorry Old Chicago, but this has been my experience. There is room for corporate pubs and breweries and not all of them are bad, don't get me wrong (I am a fan of Rock Bottom Breweries). I want to see business owners and employees that care about what they serve, work hard to make their place special for their customers, and invest socially in their drinking establishment. Just like a well made beer, crafted with science and maybe some improvisation, so too should a drinking establishment serving the beer be presented in a way that is idiosyncratic, unique, personal and real. I have found this is usually best achieved through independent ownership. I think every business would benefit if it was looked at as a type of artwork, balancing these things with the fact that ultimately there is a monetary bottom line.
MORE RIGOROUS ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES
I'm sure there are more ideas and I'll write about them in the future. I'd love to hear your thoughts, please feel free to share. Also, you can get email updates from Focus on the Beer here and join us on Facebook here.