Craft-beer people have always been a little ornery, a little rebellious, a little...independent. It's part of their charm, and also one of the reasons that they've been able to build connections with one another.
So when a group of breweries found out that they wouldn't be able to enter their own float in the Coors Light Denver PrideFest Parade, coming up on June 16, because the Golden-based megabrewer — and title sponsor — had an exclusive on the event, they decided to host their own pride parade with miniature floats.
"We had eight or ten smaller breweries that were interested in teaming up on the cost of a float," says Marjorie Scott, a taproom employee at both Call to Arms Brewing and Station 26 Brewing. "We have a pretty big queer community in craft beer, and we wanted to show our support."
Scott emailed The Center, the organizer of PrideFest and one of Colorado's premier nonprofits supporting LGBTQ issues, to ask about cost and logistics. The response wasn't what she expected. "Although we truly appreciate your donation offer to local LGBTQ non-profits, we must honor our long-standing relationship with Coors," the Center replied. "We cannot approve your request to include breweries in the parade."
Exclusivity rights when it comes to sponsors and their products are common for events of all kinds, so the Center's position isn't unusual. But it left the craft brewers on the outside.
"We don't bear any ill will toward the Center," says Scott, who praises the organization's work and notes that many people also respect Coors for its longtime support of same-sex benefits and LGBTQ employee rights. (That may come as a surprise to people who are familiar with the right-wing politics of some members of the Coors family, but as both the company and the family have said many times, they are separate entities.)
"We are happy that the Center has the support of Coors, and we are happy we're able to do something as well, and to show people that the LGBTQ community is part of craft beer," Scott says.
But independent craft brewers of all kinds, along with the Brewers Association, have been battling Coors for years as they fight to gain market share and make inroads in the beer industry. So they decided to take the fight to the streets, with their own parade.
Call to Arms, which has held other miniature-float parades in the past, for Mardi Gras in particular, started organizing an alternative parade for Pride Week — and the number of participating groups blew up from the original eight to more than twenty. "It's way more than I anticipated," Scott says, "which is really amazing."
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The Brewers Light Pride Parade & Rumpus (named with a not-so-subtle reference to Coors Light) will kick off at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, the day before the big PrideFest parade, at Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery on Tennyson Street. From there, it will head south to The Empourium Brewing before turning north again and making for Call to Arms; that brewery will then tap a special beer, a brut IPA, with proceeds benefitting the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
The floats — about fifteen of them — will be made of everything from skateboards and wagons to brewing equipment and "whatever else they come up with," Scott says, laughing.
In addition to the three breweries named above, parade participants include Hogshead Brewery, Ratio Beerworks, Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Cannonball Creek Brewing, Alternation Brewing, Woods Boss Brewing, Station 26 Brewing, De Steeg Brewery, Periodic Brewing, Comrade Brewing, Little Machine Beer, Chain Reaction Brewing, Goldspot Brewing, Blue Tile Brewing and FlyteCo Brewing, along with High Point Creamery, Valhalla Cakes, Good Sugar Bakery, Mas Kaos Pizzeria + Taqueria, and Wise Child Botanicals.