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Mayor Hickenlooper's cruisin' for brews

Is Mayor John Hickenlooper's tour around Colorado as he campaigns for governor really just an excuse for the former brewer to try out local beers?

Campaign spokesman George Merritt denies it: "We certainly try to end up in local restaurants when we travel, and several times it has been a brewery. That is certainly a business John knows, and we are trying to highlight that."

But it certainly is suspicious.

The mayor spoke Wednesday at Pagosa Brewing Company in Pagosa Springs and Thursday at Ska Brewing Company in Durango. Over the past few months, he has also appeared at Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs and New Belgium in Fort Collins.

"He's a big brewery fan, and breweries are a great meeting place," says Pagosa owner Tony Simmons. "We had a big turnout, as far as Pagosa Springs goes, and it was nice to have somebody stop by here in the hinterlands."

Pagosa Brewery recently won three medals at the North American Beer Awards: a gold for Nipple Mountain Nip barleywine, and silvers for Poor Richard's Ale, an English brown ale, and Soaker's Stout, an oatmeal stout.

But before he started the award-winning brewery in 2006, Simmons says he knew Hickenlooper as a member of the Brewers Association. "He was really nice. He gave me feedback on my business plan and helped me that way," he says.

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