Seven Things to Know Before You Start a DIY Colorado Brewery Tour

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Sure, you have a family, a job, a few hobbies and, you know, a life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the time to visit every brewery in Colorado. While the task might sound daunting, the guys who have done it say it wasn’t that hard — and they recommend it to anyone else who loves beer...and Colorado.

“It really wasn’t that taxing of an adventure, as it took me three years to visit all 300 breweries,” says Kevin Harris. “That’s only an average of two per week, and the large majority of the breweries in Colorado are in and around Denver and the Front Range. My job has me in the office very early, so the afternoon and evenings provided plenty of free time. And honestly,” he points out, “beer and breweries are my hobby.”

The Beer Barons — George Rapko, Daniel Hess and Gary Brown — rented a plane to knock off one group of breweries, but they also spent many hours in cars, and stayed in both hotels and campgrounds. And since the Barons didn’t count a brewery unless all three guys were there at the same time, “it took a lot of prodding to keep us all on schedule,” Rapko says.

“We did take a couple of months off due to work and other events,” he adds. “Early into the tour, we thought we might have lost our mojo and weren’t going to finish...but eventually we got back on schedule and were able to complete the trip. It really did consume a large portion of our time over those 642 days.”
Inspired? Intrigued? Ready to start your own quest? We’ve compiled some handy advice, including this one: Get started soon, because more than fifty new breweries are currently under construction across the state.

Keep reading for our tip sheet  on how to see them all:

1. Get a handle on size and scope
Start with the Colorado Brewery List (coloradobrewerylist.com). Not only does it include an up-to-date list of every brewery, but it also has locations and details about them. “If you are serious about visiting them all, you will also need to keep track of the upcoming breweries,” says Stephen Adams. “Since no one was doing this when I was at the peak of my quest, I started tracking Colorado breweries in development from concept through construction. I now do this so others don’t have to.”

2. Organize early and often
“Early on, before we had a website that tracked our progress, we missed opportunities to hit breweries that were very close to each other,” Rapko says of his own site, which lists all the breweries the Barons visited. “We also didn’t look into the future for new breweries that were going to open in areas that we planned to hit, so there were a couple of times that we needed to revisit an area more than once.” Harris echoes those sentiments: “Nothing worse than finding out later that you had missed an easy-to-visit brewery far away; there are two breweries within a block of each other out in Fruita, for example. Don’t despair, though, if you have to go to the same area a number of times. It’s inevitable that you’ll end up driving past some breweries on several occasions.”

3. Decide what you consider to be a brewery
Different people count Colorado’s breweries in different ways. Some don’t count more than one location of chains like Rock Bottom; others don’t include Coors or Budweiser or the breweries they own, such as Breckenridge, 10 Barrel, Blue Moon and AC Golden. And then there are places like Crooked Stave, whose brewery isn’t in its taproom and isn’t open to the public, not to mention breweries that don’t have locations and those that have production facilities in addition to taprooms. There are also independent breweries with multiple locations, including Dry Dock, Oskar Blues, Denver Beer Co. and Mountain Sun.

4. Take your time if you need to
While some of the guys on the list visited all 300 breweries in the state in just a few years, you can take it slow.“I don’t think I could have done it that way,” says Patrick Malone, who started visiting breweries before there was an Internet and has continued to do so at his own pace, often stopping by on his way to a music fest or a campground.

5. Call ahead
If you are driving several hours to visit a brewery, call ahead or check Facebook to make sure the establishment will be open, says Adams, who learned this tip the hard way. “That has happened twice to us,” adds Malone. “Man, was that disappointing.”

6. Come up with a plan to avoid drinking and driving
Avoiding drinking and driving is relatively easy in the metro area, where Uber, light rail or other forms of public transportation can get you almost anywhere. It’s harder in small towns. “If Lyft and Uber had a frequent-flyer program, we’d be platinum members,” Rapko says. “Absolutely, a driver is a must. Our general modus operandi was to drive to two breweries, check into a hotel and then Uber/Lyft for the rest of the night.” Adams says the effects of drinking and driving are a very strong consideration when planning a quest: “Most of my visits to multiple breweries involved bring a friend along. While they were not necessarily as a designated driver, we simply split a single set of tasters between us before moving on so at most we had less than a pint each. On the bigger trips, after driving to three, I would plan to stop at our hotel near a cluster of breweries and walk to the remainder.”

7. Don’t overdo it
At one point the Beer Barons visited thirteen Boulder County breweries in a single day. “That night, or more specifically the next morning, we had those thoughts,” says Rapko. “However, we adjusted how many breweries we would hit in a day, and haven’t regretted the tour since. We guess moderation really is a thing. Who knew?”­

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