Despite many event cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado's tenth annual Caffeine Crawl is set to take place this Friday, September 25, and Saturday, September 26, in Golden, Greeley, Grand Junction, Longmont/Lafayette and Loveland/Fort Collins.
The Caffeine Crawl events, organized by Kansas City-based company the LAB, take place in multiple cities across the country throughout the year. Denver was one of the original locations in 2011, but other Front Range cities like Fort Collins and Boulder have since been added to the rotation. Because of the pandemic, the LAB decided to take a different approach this year by scheduling multiple crawls in smaller cities, with fewer stops and a limited number of tickets to allow for a safer, more controlled experience. Instead of 35 spots per tour, as in previous years, the 2020 crawls have been capped at fifteen. Although the tour is guided, participants must provide their own transportation between sites.
Jason Burton, founder of the Caffeine Crawl, says he started the event ten years ago to share craft coffee culture with coffee lovers who aren't necessarily employed by the coffee industry. At the time, he worked in the food and beverage industry and presented trends in the business at conferences. "Doing the circuit, going to events around the country, I saw that these events attracted consumers," he recalls. "In fact, most people in those things are consumers, but coffee was the complete opposite: Ninety-nine percent of the people who attend the coffee events when we started were all industry folks. People that love coffee and are coffee-curious do not get to experience the same thing that, say, a craft beer lover could."
This observation led him to create the Coffee Crawl as a way for coffee lovers to connect while learning something new and, of course, drinking coffee.
Each stop provides participants with something unique. "They have a presentation, talk or demo...like a pairing of baked good with a signature latte, but instead of eight- or ten-ounce sizes, everyone might get five," Burton explains. "Or maybe there's a roasting company and they got in this new Rwanda, and it's processed a certain way, so they'll educate people on that process. Another place might get a new Kenyan in and show you different brewing methods. We totally leave it up to the shops completely to do their thing."
Past stops have included Ozo in Boulder and Pablo's in Denver, but this year marks a new approach by visiting coffee shops and cafes in outlying suburbs and towns. "Suburban areas typically known for franchise or box stores now have specialty shops," Burton notes. "In just ten years, these neighborhoods now have places for community gathering where there weren't before."
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He hopes this year's round of Caffeine Crawls will introduce urban dwellers to the specialty coffee options in the 'burbs. Golden, in particular, provides an easy getaway for those who want to try something outside of their usual neighborhood stops. "People who live in the city [who say] 'We've been stuck here — let's get out and go,'" are good candidates for the crawl, the organizer notes, adding that they might then "do something in nature to decompress afterwards."
Stops on the Golden tour include Bean Fosters, Old Barrel Tea Co., Generous Coffee Shop and Launch Espresso, Food & Spirits.
Ten years and 99 Caffeine Crawls later (93 of which he has attended), Burton says, "I'm biased, but in a day and age where there's so much tension and debate, one thing I'm super-thankful for is that we've created a brand that brings people together." Even with COVID-19 restrictions, Burton thinks coffee and the Caffeine Crawl naturally bring people together.
Tickets for this weekend's Caffeine Crawl range in price from $22.50 to $30.50, depending on the number of stops on the route; all include a goody bag with swag.