Craft brewing is a $3 billion industry in Colorado. Our 400-plus breweries make 1.5 million barrels of beer each year, and they have become one of the state's signature industries. But even after two decades of wild popularity, it's still hard to find local brews, beyond some standard or superficial offerings, in music and sports venues.
Jeremy Farmer knows this well. Before taking a job with New Image Brewing in Arvada, he worked for Oskar Blues Brewing, which has been one of the most successful craft brewers to break into the big leagues: You can find cans of Dale's Pale Ale in just about every major venue in the state, from Red Rocks Amphitheatre to the Pepsi Center. (New Belgium Brewing, meanwhile, brews a house beer just for Red Rocks, called Stage Rock.)
But the same isn't true for smaller breweries, which is why Farmer told New Image founder Brandon Capps that he planned to connect the brewery with Denver's music scene. That pledge became reality on April 20, when the Bluebird Theater began selling Bluebird IPA, a canned house beer brewed by New Image.
"I always try to smash my love of live music together with my love of craft beer, and this project is the evolution of that," says Farmer, who's made many friends over the years with people who work for promoters and venues around town, including AEG Presents, the huge entertainment company that runs the 1STBANK Center, Fiddler's Green, the Ogden Theatre and the Bluebird, among others.
"Over beers with two friends in the venue-management side at AEG...we were talking about the struggle of smaller craft breweries getting into venues and competing with the bigger guys," he says. "Doing one-offs for shows where you do a collab with the band is fine, but it’s usually just for that night and then that’s it; it doesn’t really move the sales needle for the venue longer than that or help connect that brewery to the music.
"So we just threw around the idea of collaborating on a beer with one of the AEG venues the way we would with a band, do cans instead of kegs," Farmer adds. "With cans, the venue could move through [the beer] at a steadier pace and not take up a tap line — and create a lasting connection of concert-goers and craft-beer drinkers with a beer specifically for one of the best and busiest venues in Denver, the Bluebird."
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Bluebird, a brut-style IPA, is brewed with Citra and Huell Melon hops, which New Image uses in some of its best-known beers, along with blood orange, which combines with the hops to give the beer a strong citrusy flavor. And it clocks in at a relatively low 5 percent ABV so that concert-goers can have a few.
Capps, who founded New Image when he was only 25, says he wanted "to stick to an area that we’re known for but reformat it a little so that the beer will be an easy drinker for concerts. It boasts a really robust character without imparting a ton of bitterness, and it really accentuates citric hop character. The result is an IPA that smells richly of citrus and peach, drinks with a smooth flavor of the same and finishes dry."
And it's "meant to be a permanent arrangement," Capps adds. "The overall goal is not just to put our beer in front of concert-goers, but to elevate their craft-beer options while still keeping it very affordable."
Farmer says that since New Image is self-distributed and on the smaller side, he's hoping to come up with "cool ideas like this for future collabs with the other AEG spots or even open up to friends at other venues."