Remember how cute we all were back in March, posting pictures on social media of ourselves wearing bandannas, looking like masked bank robbers and wondering whether or not businesses were going to allow people with masks to come inside? My, how things have changed. As time ticks slowly toward the March 17 anniversary of the beginning of Colorado's COVID lockdown, most small businesses — and the people who frequent them — have incorporated new rules and new ways of doing things in their daily lives.
These days, those bandannas have mostly been replaced by hospital-style masks — and they are no longer cute — while a host of other strange-looking scenes have become normal. Here are 25 Facebook photos from local breweries and beer bars that would have made no sense to us a year ago.
Joyride Brewing in Edgewater was one of the first to get aboard the to-go bus, setting up this charming "lemonade" stand in one of its large garage doors for to-go sales. The brewery subsequently made the image into T-shirts. Joyride recently upped its to-go game by selling mixed six-packs of its beer in cans.
Filling beer containers such as growlers and Crowlers for customers to take home has been illegal in Colorado for all of this century and most of the last one, so Falling Rock Tap House would never in a million years have sent Russian River's Pliny the Elder out the door like this. But the pandemic called for new ways of selling alcohol, and restaurants were given temporary permission to sell draft beer to go because they couldn't seat people indoors.
And if your business didn't have a Crowler machine, the State of Colorado temporarily let restaurants fill just about any vessel with booze. Regulations have since tightened up a little, but there's still plenty of room for creativity. Mason jars? Sure, as long as you can stretch a seal across the top telling customers not to open it in transit. Hops & Pie unloaded plenty of good draft beer that way.
These little domes began popping up in front of restaurants and breweries all over town in October and November as the service industry got ready to weather both the winter cold and new state-mandated restrictions that didn't allow them to seat people indoors. These particular domes fill Spice Trade Brewing's parking lot.
You can bet that no one in this picture is wearing pants. Zoom, FaceTime, GoogleChat and many more online video-conferencing options became the norm in 2020, even for brewery collaborations like this one between Baere and Cerebral — two breweries that have worked together in person many times in the past.
Remember the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020? Not to mention shortages of rice, antibacterial wipes, pasta, onions, rubber gloves, paper towels, eggs, yeast and poultry. For some, it's still ongoing. But breweries, which order supplies in bulk but no longer had customers, had plenty of toilet paper on hand. So some gave away rolls or collected them for those in need — sometimes in exchange for beer. Cellar West Artisan Ales was one of those breweries that offered a half a pint of beer per donated roll. A square deal, for sure.
Drinking at home in 2020 created an aluminum can shortage, which has forced many breweries to get creative with their packaging. Oskar Blues and Ska Brewing were the first to explain strange-looking cans to customers, but Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs had fun with the situation, as well, writing that "after significant R&D, we decided our best option is to wrap existing printed cans. For this batch of Pilsner, we had to use Senorita cans. Not ideal, but way better than the alternatives." The Capri Sun pouches would have been cool, though.
Denver's first Prohibition started on January 1, 1916, and lasted for eighteen years. The city's second Prohibition started on March 23, 2020, and lasted for two hours. That was when Mayor Michael Hancock issued his stay-at-home order following reports that people were continuing to gather in groups. He initially included liquor stores and recreational marijuana stores as non-essential businesses that would have to close — sparking a panic that resulted in long lines. Breweries also interpreted the order to include them. Shortly thereafter, Hancock clarified the brewery portion — a change that inspired glassware and T-shirts, including this one from Spangalang Brewing.
Did we mention masks? Just about every brewery photo on social media includes employees in masks, something that now sadly seems normal but would have been very strange in 2019. In fact, some breweries are even making their own branded face coverings. Briar Common Brewery + Eatery ran a nice series of photos of its employees in their masks and without them, just so we could all remember that we have mouths.
Social distancing? What the heck is that? It sounds terrible.
Oh, so that's what "social distancing" is. Hogshead Brewery typically doesn't mince words, and the west-side brewery, which serves English-style cask ales, didn't do so here, either, laying out the law of the land. A few other breweries posted these basic directives as well. Be cool.
Well, that looks dangerous. This year saw many Colorado cities and towns temporarily close streets so that restaurants and breweries could seat more customers outdoors — something they would need to do in order to make enough money to survive. Parts of South Pearl Street, Larimer Street and Seventh Avenue were all examples, the last seen here with tables set up by Counter Culture Brewery + Grille.
Early on in the pandemic, breweries were still getting used to the new world, including social distancing and rules about how many people could be allowed inside. Call to Arms Brewing rigged up a lighting system to let people waiting outside to buy takeout beer know when they could come in.
The owners of Bierstadt Lagerhaus had vowed never to package their beers. "We believe very strongly in drinking draft beer. It is a better experience than a packaged beer, especially considering the kind of beer we make — delicate and nuanced," co-owner and brewer Ashleigh Carter told Westword in April. But 2020 wasn't a very nuanced year, and not only was the brewery forced to can its lagers in order to sell them, but they came up with one of the most widespread distribution footprints locally, and some of the coolest-looking labels. Bierstadt in cans meant that Hell must have frozen over — which is great, since lagers don't store well in hot conditions.
WeldWerks Brewing has certainly made beer with weird ingredients — tacos, spaghetti and yogurt being at the top of the list. But what is this? Like several other breweries, WeldWerks participated in making hand sanitizer early in the pandemic, donating beer and supplies to get the product out to front-line workers and first responders.
Bare floors, vacant tap rooms and chairs stacked on tables or hidden from view: What's going on? Brewery taprooms have typically been some of the most packed places in Colorado, but not in 2020, when several different state and local orders reduced indoor capacity or completely eliminated it at different points over the course of the year, leaving vibrant spaces devoid of people (aside from sad bartenders, like this one at Diebolt Brewing).
But empty taprooms forced breweries to scramble to figure out how to seat people outdoors — even when snow accumulates and temperatures drop. Plastic pods, greenhouses and tents were the most common structures that breweries began using in October and November. Of course, setting up outdoor seating like Cerebral Brewing's huge tents took away parking for a few urban spots.
One of the only good things to come out of 2020 for breweries was their ability to deliver beer directly to customers — something that many are hoping will become a permanent change to Colorado liquor laws. In the meantime, though, many, like TRVE Brewing, were able to keep taproom and brewery staff employed by signing them up as delivery drivers to spread the suds around the metro area.
Go ahead, raise your hand if you had heard of Zoom before last March. I know I hadn't. The Internet video-chat service is now a household name, though...and a verb...and a lifeline for some. It's also part of the name of about a dozen different Colorado beers, including Denver Beer Co.'s hilarious Zoom Casual IPA. And that was just the beginning when it came to pandemic-related beer names.
Drive-ups and drive-thrus, along with curbside pick-up, to-go windows and designated parking spaces, became the norm as breweries tried to figure out the most efficient way to get product out the door, keep their staff employed and stay within the rules. Although handing beer to someone in a car might have been frowned on (even a sealed beer) in years past, it was widely accepted in 2020. Wiley Roots Brewing in Greeley even set up this makeshift drive-thru where customers could pull up, pay and move on. No fries included.
Wait, what? Even the Great American Beer Festival was canceled? Yep, along with every other festival in 2020, from the biggest to the smallest. A few organizers, including the Brewers Association, tried to keep the spirit of craft beer going with virtual fests, but they just couldn't really grab the imagination of the beer-drinking public. Ratio Beerworks, which is typically slammed during GABF week each year, came up with these coozies to help ease the pain.
GABF may have been canceled, but the competition went on as usual. Well, not quite as usual. While there were no international judges this year, the Brewers Association was able to find enough volunteers (125 instead of the usual 320) to rate and rank 9,000 different beers from breweries across the country, even if the judges looked a little funny doing it behind their giant plastic face shields.
Get your heaters, your fire pits and your protective plastic ready. Winter in Colorado brought drinking in the snow, thanks to restrictions that don't allow customers inside. Cannonball Creek Brewing fans took right to it.
Some breweries even started providing blankets — or asking patrons to bring them along. Here's hoping that we can all gather indoors again in 2021. Brrrrr.
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