When it comes to beer, Colorado ski and snowboard destinations have long been known for pouring cheap megabeers into plastic cups -- repeatedly. But that's starting to change as the resorts look to team up with craft brewers around the state to attract shredders, powderhounds and even gapers with a more elevated palate.
"That's true, but I think it's going to change because craft beer is crazy right now," says Steve Indrehus, the head brewer at Tommyknocker Brewing, which made a beer this year to commemorate Loveland Ski Area's 75th Anniversary. "Even us doing this, our distributor, Coors, wasn't that happy because they wanted the tap handle."
Then there's Oskar Blues, which collaborated on a small-batch beer with Denver-based Icelantic Skis this week -- the first part of a major, four-part marketing effort between the brewery, the ski maker, the Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass band and the nonprofit Protect Our Winters. "Beer and skiing go together perfectly," says the brewery's Chad Melis (see just how perfectly with the photo on the next page.)
You can find a craft beer selection paired with all 25 ski resorts in Colorado in the Drinking Locally segment of the Edge, our annual guide to the slopes, which came out last week and is available online. But here are six more places and ways that the two industries are looking to make fresh tracks together.
1) New Belgium Brewing and Starwood Hotels & Resorts have teamed up on a brewery-themed slopeside après-ski restaurant in Snowmass and a separate bar inside the newly renovated Westin Snowmass Resort. The New Belgium Ranger Station, on the Snowmass Village Mall, will serve ten New Belgium beers, along with food, while the bar will incorporate "retro-hip" New Belgium imagery and serve a broad selection of craft beers.
2) The Art of Winter, which celebrates artists and designers from independent snow sport brands each year during the annual Snow Sports Industries America (SIA) show in Denver, is teaming up with local breweries this time around in addition to art galleries. Some of the original artwork, which is done on recycled skis and snowboards, will be displayed at Renegade Brewing, Denver Beer Co and Strange Brewing in January and February. The breweries may also collaborate on an Art of Winter beer.
3) To celebrate Loveland Ski Area's 75th anniversary, Tommyknocker Brewery cooked up a recipe for Pine Bough Pale Ale, a beer made with with one gram of pine needle per gallon; brewers from Tommyknocker harvested the spruce tips themselves from trees at the resort, says head brewer Steve Indrehus. "It's wildly successful -- almost too successful because I have to go back up there to get more spruce tips this week," Indrehus quips. "They sold five kegs of it in a week, which is usually what they go through in a month. So I'm getting nervous because they only have one run open."
4) Oskar Blues and Icelantic Skis will be partnering all winter on a series of promotions, including OB branded skis (see picture below), a collaboration beer that could be available publicly at some point, events during First Fridays in Denver and at the SIA show, and with the Brewski Bus, which will pick people up in Denver, lend them demo skis at a resort and take them to a bar or restaurant serving Oskar Blues beer. The Infamous Stringdusters and Protect Our Winters will also be involved.
5) The Dillon Dam Brewery ("I'd give my left ear for a DAM beer") has partnered with the Denver Art Museum (currently showing the exhibit Becoming van Gogh) this fall on DAM Gogh, a beer that both organizations are using to cross-promote their ties to Vincent van Gogh and to the initials D.A.M. The goal: "The beer is part of a larger promotional partnership between the two entities to reach the ski audience," according to the museum. "It used to be that Denver was just the place you flew into and then went to the mountains," adds DAM spokeswoman Ashley Pritchard. "But it has become a real world-class desination...We definitely want to capture some of those folks who are coming from out of state to go to the mountains." The beer is available only at the Rackhouse Pub in Denver and at the Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon.
6) Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs is teaming up with nearby Monarch Mountain on a series of promotions. The first takes place on Friday, November 16, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the brewery. The ski season kickoff party -- sponsored by Monarch, Fortitude Skis and Native Eyewear, features live music, giveaways (including Native Eyewear and a Monarch Mountain Season Pass) and the grand prize: a custom pair of Elevation Propeller All Mountain ski's from Fortitude. Elevation and Monarch are also planning a Park & Ski at the brewery for people to carpool.
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