Hick's Wynkoop Return: Taking Mom to See Porn, Tale From Cutting Room Floor

John Hickenlooper, back where it all began.
John Hickenlooper, back where it all began.
Danielle Lirette

Governor John Hickenlooper was back where it all began last night, signing copies of The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics, as fans flooded the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

This is where Hickenlooper's public life began, at least. As the book he co-wrote with Max Potter details — and Hickenlooper reiterated last night — some of the most formative events came long before Hickenlooper and his partners opened Denver's first brewpub in 1988. His father died soon after Hickenlooper turned eight, and he grew up a geek with coke-bottle glasses, a socially awkward nerd who took his mother to see Deep Throat (the tidbit that's gotten the most national attention). It took lithium and ten years for Hickenlooper to get out of Wesleyan University with a career goal, but just a few years after he landed in Denver with a job as a geologist, he found himself laid off.

So why not open a brewpub in what was then a very depressed part of town in a very depressed city? (At least the fact that the Westword office was across the street for fifteen years guaranteed a healthy bar business.)

Some of the people at the Wynkoop last night were there the day the brewpub opened; others — like the Tattered Cover's Joyce Meskis, "the greatest entrepreneur" with the "greatest bookstore in the world," Hickenlooper told the crowd — soon got to know the gregarious barkeep. And in some ways, the event had the feel of the last day of high school, as people looked through the back of their yearbook to see if where their names showed up in the index. (Photographer Evan Semon, who's done much of Hickenlooper's official photography, had the best idea: He had people sign the pages where their names appeared.)

"HOPosite of Woe" beer brewed by the Wynkoop.
"HOPosite of Woe" beer brewed by the Wynkoop.
Danielle Lirette

And yes, my name is there, in the section in which Hickenlooper talks about considering his run for mayor — a political campaign that got its start when he launched a quest to save the Mile High Stadium name. But there had been many, many barside discussions in the preceding dozen years, giving rise to the concept of "drinks on the table," a phrase that indicated a conversation was "way, way off the record," Hickenlooper writes.

Hickenlooper didn't read that section last night. Instead, after talking about how very little money the Wynkoop group had when hey started the brewpub, he shared a section detailing about how he got a line on some "gorgeous old porcelain thrones" that he could have for just $25 each. Just one problem: They were full of "years-old, maybe decades-old dried feces." And he continues:

"There, among the flies and maggots, I saw opportunity. The two guys and I spent most of the day unscrewing the rusted bolts and carrying the toilets to a pickup truck. On the way back to the pub, we stopped at a local outdoor car wash and set about cleaning the bowls. We put on rubber gloves and with hammers began whacking away at the crust on the waste-caked bowls, breaking it up and then scooping it up. Again, just to be clear, that's by hand. (In a few years, as governor, I would learn that legislative politics on a statewide level is very similar: whacking away at layers of crap to get something useful.)"

Whoa.

Speaking of which, the book's title comes from an old joke that everyone in the room who knows Hickenlooper had heard many, many times. A teacher asked her class for the "opposite of woe." Responded one young student:

"Giddy up."

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That's how the book ends — thus far. But now with new wife Robin — the real "opposite of woe," he said, "it is also where the rest of my story begins. Where we go from here, who knows? You know me, I've got more than a few ideas in my head."

And those in the room had more than a few Hickenlooper stories that didn't make these pages. So does Hickenlooper, of course, even though he pointed out that Potter pushed him to make sure the book showed him "warts and all" — which is why you can disregard any rumors that Hickenlooper might become vice-president, he added.

Here's just one of the stories that didn't make the cut. During his lengthy college career, Hickenlooper was driving across Mexico in a VW bug when he encountered some federales. They looked in the back of the car and saw a case — which they suspected held guns, until they opened it and saw a banjo. At that point, one of the young federales went to his jeep — only to return with a guitar. And together they played music under the Mexican moon for a half-hour.

There's more, of course. But those stories will have to wait for the next round...wherever it might be served.

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Wynkoop Brewing Company

1634 18th St.
Denver, CO 80202

303-297-2700

www.wynkoop.com

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