Way back - way, way back -- before there was a microbrewery in every city, before the terms IPA and ESB entered the common lingo, before big, bold craft beers muscled their way onto liquor store shelves (before color photography, even), the pioneers of the microbrewery industry got their shaggy-looking selves together in Boulder for a home-brewing conference.
The year was 1981, and the conference had been organized by Charlie Papazian, one of the patriarchs of craft brewing and the founder of its main trade group, the Association of Brewers in Boulder. Also at that meeting were the late (and famed) beer writer Michael Jackson and Al Nelson, founder of the Boulder Brewing Company.
Photojournalist David Alexander Bjorkman covered the conference, and over the next fifteen years documented the rise of the microbrewery movement in the United States. The result is Microbrewers 1981-1996: A Photo History. The $65, 160-page book - available only at www.blurb.com - features black and white photos showing more than 300 microbrewers and other industry participants in all their happy, poorly dressed, poorly groomed and facially haired glory. But it also captures what Bjorkman terms in a summary of the book the "pure joy of early micro brewing."
"The pioneers and players in the photos come from different backgrounds and disciplines, but they all had a passion for beer," he wrote. "Some grew to become industry leaders, with their names, faces and beers known to beer connoisseurs across the nation. Some shot to fame, but for lack of money or know-how crashed like a falling star."
One even became a mayor. Yes, Denver's very own Mayor John Hickenlooper -- founder and former head of the Wynkoop Brewing Company -- appears in the book in a 1992 photo, looking somewhat younger but every bit as Honorable as he is now.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.