Beer Man

Hick May Be Leaving, but Governor's Mansion Beer Taps Will Stay

Jonathan Shikes
Tim Myers of Strange Craft Beer Company fills a glass at the mansion.
Colorado's brewer-in-chief will be leaving office this January after eight years, but Governor John Hickenlooper, who founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988 and has been a staunch supporter of the craft-brewing industry, is leaving a little bit of beer love behind — as he has done just about everywhere he's gone.

The elegant, three-handle draft beer system that Hickenlooper installed in March 2014 with help from the Colorado Brewers Guild will stay behind in the first-floor parlor of the Governor's Mansion. The taps serve a rotating selection of Colorado craft beers during events when the governor is in the house.

"Yes, that is a gift to the house from the Colorado Brewers Guild," says James Finnerty, director of the Colorado Governor's Residence. "It's staying put."

Hickenlooper told Westword in 2014 that he got the idea for a craft-beer bar at the mansion a year earlier, and "went into the basement to see if it would be possible to put a cooler down there" for kegs. It was, and the cooler is now located inside a basement closet. The draft lines extend from there through the ceiling to the bar.

click to enlarge The Colorado Brewers Guild selects the beers on tap. - JONATHAN SHIKES
The Colorado Brewers Guild selects the beers on tap.
Jonathan Shikes
Although Hickenlooper originally intended to pick the beers himself, Finnerty says the Residence has actually left most of the decision-making to the Guild so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. When a brewery is selected, however, "they are really excited to have their beer on tap here," he says.

Little Machine Beer Company, for instance, posted a few pictures on Facebook earlier this month of them delivering a keg to the mansion. "Just dropped some beer off to the oldest walk-in cooler in Colorado. Hopefully that keg will last through the end of your administration," the brewery wrote, and tagged the governor.

Sources say incoming Jared Polis isn't much of a beer drinker — unless you count the beer bong he did in 2009 with Stephen Colbert — but he has shown that he understands the state's craft-beer industry.

The tap system, which Finnerty says is the first — and possibly still the only — one to be installed in a governor's residence in the country, helps show the industry's importance to the Colorado economy. "It's good for starting conversations," he explains. "Especially with visitors and people from out of state."