Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

John Hickenlooper: The beer-flavored lesson for Colorado from Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

Beer was flowing (figuratively, at least) when John Hickenlooper offered his first address to the Colorado Legislature yesterday and told the story of a brewpub. Not the Denver-centric story of the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the iconic LoDo spot, but a venture that grew out of that project: the Phantom Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs.

Like the Wynkoop, Phantom involved the renovation of a historic building. Unlike the Wynkoop, it happened in a city that is far from a Democratic stronghold. Here's the beery, bipartisan story Hickenlooper spilled:

Almost twenty years ago to the day, a person who knew that I loved old buildings coaxed me down seventy miles south of here to look at the only registered historical landmark in downtown Colorado Springs.

It was scheduled for demolition.

I bought that building from the bank, but despite previous successes in Denver and Fort Collins, I could not attract investors to save the old Cheyenne Hotel.

After almost two years of work, when the bank was on the verge of repossessing the building, our general contractor, the man -- the legend -- Chuck Murphy, saw another approach.

He called a meeting of all the subcontractors who had bid on the project -- the electrician, the plumber, the sprinkler guy, all of the others -- to come listen to the same pitch I'd been giving to wealthy investors.

Despite my skepticism that small businesspeople would accept such risk, they put their money down. We raised the last $150,000 from the subcontractors. They become my partners.

From that point on, everything was different.

I'll never forget when the electrician came and was concerned about lighting in the bar. He suggested that we replace the deluxe fan system in our plans with an equally durable fan that also featured lights.

I asked what the extra cost was going to be, and he said, "I'm your partner, why would I add an extra cost?"

That's how we built the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

The stakes are a lot bigger now, but I'm here today to ask you to become our partners in transforming Colorado...

By focusing on Phantom rather than the Wynkoop, Hickenlooper made good on his promise to pour his energy into the entire state, not just metro Denver. And today he'll start a three-day tour of the state, touting economic development.

And beer.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "John Hickenlooper: Coining a new governor at the State Capitol, and keeping the change."