Denver Off the Wagon, a booze-centered blog boasting a couple dozen suds-sodden writers, will celebrate its first anniversary this week with a three-day party centered around a beer that the Wagoners brewed in January at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. Wagon Ryed, as the beer is called, is based off of a homebrew recipe developed by PJ Hoberman, who founded the blog (which won a Westword #WebAward in November) on February 23. It's a rye dry stout made with caraway seeds.
"This recipe was the first one I ever made from scratch -- as it's not based on another beer somewhere out there -- and it's my favorite," says Hoberman, who hopes to open his own brewery some day, but recently put that effort on hold.
Instead, he's spent a huge amount of time and effort developing the blog, which boasted more than 14,000 unique visitors over the past month alone, about triple what it was when the blog started. But drinking is a subject he's passionate about.
"At the time, I was writing for RateBeer.com's Hop Press, and was getting a little antsy writing at that level," Hoberman says. "The exposure was amazing, but it wasn't for me. I didn't feel I had much to offer to the beer scene on a national level. Also, while I love beer, I also love whiskey, so I figured it was time to focus on Denver's drinking scene as a whole, not just the beer, and do it all in one place."
And he's cultivated an eclectic set of liquid-lunch loving contributors, which includes writers, photographers and designers, some of whom work in the restaurant or booze industries. Roughly seven to ten of them contribute on a weekly basis, while a few write more intermittently. All of them work for the glory and the connections rather than a paycheck.
"The site is nothing without the contributors. I talk a lot and drink beer, but they make the site what it is," Hoberman says.
Some of that glory has come in the form of events from Hoberman and Denver Off The Wagon, including a special, beer-focused edition of Ignite Denver, which took place the night before the Great American Beer Festival and included several well-known brewers and beer personalities, and a Beer Vs. Wine cheese pairing at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar.
"I think the highlight, however, has been the overall growth of the site, the reach we've found, and the fun we've had just about every day," Hoberman says. "When your office is Star Bar, what could go wrong?"
And "the office" will be a part of the three-day Wagon Ryed birthday festivities this week.
The partying starts at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 23 with the official release of the beer at the Wynkoop that will include a tapping of the beer and beer cocktails.
On Friday, the Wagoners and friends will reconvene at the Wynkoop at 6 p.m. for a Wagon Ryed Bar Crawl, in which they'll follow the brewery's horse-drawn beer delivery wagon to five other LoDo spots: the Wazee Supper Club, FreshCraft, Euclid Hall, Breckenridge Brewing on Blake, and Star Bar. The beer will go on tap at each.
And on Saturday, Star Bar will host a Birthday Bacchanalia starting at 7 p.m. and end when a host of cabs have poured the bloggers onto their doorsteps. This event, described as "the big shindig," will include not just Wagon Ryed, but other rare or small-batch beers on tap, along with beer cocktails and smoked cocktails. Want the insane list? Here it is:
Wagon Ryed - Wynkoop
Star Bar Proprietary Beers: Leopold Bothers American Small Batch Whiskey Barrel Aged Belgian Yeti - Great Divide Leopold Bothers Apple Whiskey Barrel Aged G'Knight - Oskar Blues Star Folie - New Belgium Star Sour #1 - AC Golden
Nomad - Great Divide Maharaja - Avery Deviant Dale's - Oskar Blues Belgian Smidy - Oskar Blues Saboteur 09 / Saboteur 12 - Odell Footprint - Odell Surette - Crooked Stave Angel's Share - The Lost Abbey Noble Rot - Dogfish Head
Featured Wagon Ryed Beer Cocktails: Double Rye Black Walnut: Hattan Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica, Black Walnut Bitters, Wagon Ryed Dry Stout
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Smoked and Flaming Wagon Wheel: Tanteo jalapeno Tequila, Del Maguey La Crema Mezcal, Leopold Brother American Orange Liqueur, orange bitters