"These are my peeps," proclaimed Mayor John Hickenlooper, the geologist-turned-brewpub-owner-turned-politician. He gestured to the crowd of brewers and other beery folks who'd gathered at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the brewpub that Hick and a hearty crew of entrepreneurs started in LoDo more than twenty years ago. The Mayor is no longer involved with the Wynkoop or any of the other restaurants in that group, but still, this was "old home week," he said.
Old home week, to celebrate something completely new: Denver Beer Fest, the first in what promises to be an annual celebration of this city's brewing industry. Restaurants, brewpubs and breweries have signed up to host more than 150 special events across the metro area from September 18 to 27 (for a complete list, go to www.denverbeerfest.com), proving that Denver has earned its label as the "Napa Valley of Beer."
Beer Fest is designed to take that reputation global, and the time is right, according to Richard Scharf, president of Visit Denver, which is sponsoring Beer Fest. Was it a coincidence that Barack Obama, who spent so much time in this beery city during the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, "started solving problems over beer" as President?
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The Beer Fest coincides with both Oktoberfest Denver, which starts today and runs through Sunday, then takes a break until next weekend (after which, it could take a really big break -- because Larimer Associates has put the forty-year-old festival up for sale), as well as Breckenridge's annual Oktoberfest, which also starts pouring today and wraps up Sunday (for details, go to www.gobreck.com/events/).
All that should have Coloradans well-lubricated for the main event, the Great American Beer Festival, which kicks off Thursday, September 24 at the Colorado Convention Center, and will feature more than 2,100 beers for your sampling pleasure. The GABF has expanded this year, adding 46 percent more space but selling just 12 percent more tickets, to allow for "more elbow room," founder Charlie Papazian announced at the Beer Fest kick off. "And elbows are important at a beer festival."
Papazian also revealed that all 31,000 tickets for this year's GABF have been sold, but there's going to be so much beer running through this town over the next nine days, you should be able to lap up leftovers from the gutters.
See you there.