Beer Man

The Brewtography Project Is a Photographic Love Letter to Colorado's Breweries

If you’ve been to a Colorado beer festival or party recently, then you’ve probably seen him behind his camera. If you follow Colorado breweries on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ve probably seen his work. For the past three years, Dustin Hall has been meticulously chronicling the state’s craft brewers with his camera, hoping to give people a glimpse into what we drink and what we brew.

And like the White House photographer, he’s captured a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes beer history, beer geekery, beer people and beer culture that tell the industry’s story in a way that words can’t.

Over the next few weeks, Hall and his Brewtography Project will host nine events at some of the breweries he’s photographed in an effort to raise enough money on Kickstarter to publish a coffee-table book, called Discovering Colorado Breweries, that will feature the photos he’s taken at more than one hundred Colorado breweries and cideries. And Hall has an unprecedented amount of support from those breweries.

“I wanted to do high-impact events, and I wanted them all to be different — not just six beer-and-cheese pairings,” says Hall, a systems engineer and photography hobbyist who first began shooting breweries three years ago. “I want people to come to more than one.”

The first Brewtography event takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at Baere Brewing. It matches cheeses from Tony's Market, pickles from the Real Dill and Baere beers, including dark sour ale fermented and aged in wine barrels. They will also be pouring The F/Stops Here, a barrel-aged coffee stout, to the first fifty people who show they have backed the Kickstarter at the book level or higher. And, as with all the other events, there will be a photo booth where you can snap your own pics — a few of which will end up in the book. Tickets are $25.

Hall, who had specialized in astrophotography, first got the idea to shoot breweries when he was drinking a beer with a friend at his go-to spot, Hogshead Brewery. “I noticed all the wood in the foreground and all the metal in the background,” he says about the contrast between the bar and the taps up front and the brewing equipment that was behind the scenes.

“I was inspired by the environment initially, so if you look at the the first ten or so breweries I photographed, you’ll notice there are no people in them,” he explains. “But I quickly fell in love with the culture and the people in the industry. They make the industry what it is. Everyone shares stories, shares ideas, works together, things like that. Now the photos are full of people.”

Hall’s enthusiasm quickly garnered him unfettered access to dozens of breweries large and small throughout the state. New Belgium gave me a key card to have full access to the entire facility. I was there for twelve hours,” Hall says. “I shot at Avery for nine hours. I think people will warm up to you after a while. Most people who come to take pictures just take a few shots and then leave. But I talk with people. I ask them what they're brewing, what they're packaging, what they're doing. After a while, people forget I'm there, and I get a lot of good shots that way.”

Another important factor: Hall doesn’t ask the breweries to buy his photos. He allows them to use them for free. “I’m not doing this to make money. If I had started this project and charged money, I would not be where I am,” he says. “I'm helping these breweries to promote themselves. It allows me access that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I want people to flip through the book and see these breweries and say, ‘That looks awesome. I want to go there.’ I want it to be a catalyst for that. Breweries are an awesome thing in this state. There are lot of them, but they're all unique in their own way. They all have their own stories and their own environments.”

And some of the stories have stood out. For instance, Hall shot 300 Suns Brewing in Longmont before co-owner Mark Lusher was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away, and was able to give those photos to the rest of the 300 Suns family. He was there when Crooked Stave began brewing for the first time on its own equipment, and in a former beer cave in Boulder County with Former Future. He has also photographed A Night to Remember several times; the event, hosted by Copper Kettle Brewing, honors victims of the 2012 Aurora theater shootings.

For the Kickstarter campaign, Hall is trying to raise $15,000 to publish an eleven-by-thirteen-inch book — something he thinks he can do. Last October, Hall tried to raise $25,000 but was unsuccessful, in part because the process was rushed. This time around, he has spent three months preparing and garnered even more support from the brewing community. If the Kickstarter raises more than $15,000, Hall would like to double the size of the book.

After the Baere event tomorrow, Hall will hold events at Mockery Brewing on May 14; Call to Arms Brewing on May 19; Avery Brewing on May 21; Former Future’s Black Project on May 22; Great Divide on May 26; Renegade Brewing on May 28; Ska Brewing on June 9 and Ratio Beer Works on June 11. Go to the Brewtography Project’s Kickstarter page for details.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes