Beer tourism is a booming industry in Colorado, but until recently, unless visitors to this state packed an extra suitcase for their canned and bottled loot, they didn’t have a way to take last-minute souvenirs back home for friends and family — or for their own refrigerators.
That changed in June, when the Time 2 Toast kiosk opened at Denver International Airport, in Concourse B — well beyond the TSA security screeners who confiscate liquids. It’s the first store at the airport to sell packaged Colorado beer, wine and spirits that passengers can stow in their carry-on bags, and it’s something that has been sorely needed for a while (and that we’ve been pushing for years).
Other airports in beer hotspots around the country have similar stores — some of them very large — at which tourists can buy these spirited souvenirs. In Portland, for instance, there are several places where you can buy big and small bottles, as well as growlers, of that state’s world-renowned suds. The airports in San Diego, St. Louis, Boise and Anchorage also offer air travelers a place to buy bottles of beer to go.
But Colorado, which has more than 250 breweries and one of the most vibrant craft-brewing cultures in the country, has been lacking.
“It’s something we’ve had an eye on for a long time, so it was serendipitous that [the Time 2 Toast operator] came to us with this idea,” says DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery. “We recognize that Colorado is a craft-beer mecca, with some of the best breweries in the country. To show those off for the 54 million people who pass through here every year is a great thing.”
DIA isn’t entirely without a craft-beer presence: Both Boulder Beer Company and New Belgium have licensed their names to restaurants at the airport, where you can find many of the two breweries’ mainstays and more unusual offerings. In addition, the airport hosted a pop-up beer garden last year during the Great American Beer Festival (as well as a craft-beer exhibit), where travelers could try some local brews on arrival.
But previously, you couldn’t take the state’s greatest liquid asset with you. The new kiosk is definitely small and will start with a limited number of options that includes beers from New Belgium, Great Divide and Coors’ Colorado Native line. It will also have local wines and spirits, such as Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. The beers will be sold in four- or six-packs, Montgomery says. (And just FYI, you still can’t crack one open at the gate.)
DIA runs the kiosk program as a way for smaller businesses to get a foothold at the airport, as the kiosks have a much lower cost of entry. According to DIA, they are designed as a proving ground for people who might want to move into a regular store later.
Not that RMES Communications, which holds the contract on Time 2 Toast, needs any kind of foothold at the airport. RMES was founded by Herman Malone and is one of the oldest contractors at DIA, having started there with pay phones in 1995 and expanded into retail outlets. Malone ran into trouble with some of his airport dealings last year, however, when he was accused of pressuring a DIA employee during the bidding process for duty-free stores there.
Time 2 Toast will be run by Pamela Malone, who is listed on RMES’s website as a project manager; she didn’t return e-mails seeking comment.