Aug 252010
Authors: Johnny Hart

Kailey Schumacher grew up watching her father brew beer in the basement of their Durango home.

So it’s not a stretch for the recent CSU graduate to say that she fell in love with her two-day-a-week job in the tap room of Odell Brewing Company just east of Old Town on Lincoln Avenue.

She hopes to make a more permanent move soon.

Or take Amanda Johnson, Odell’s public relations specialist, who met her husband during her nine years at the brewery.

Or Colin Westcott, who started brewing on his father’s home brewing kit at the age of 19. He and his wife, Shannon, opened the local brewery supply shop Hops and Berries five years ago and the adjacent Equinox Brewing Company this summer.

Westcott, who’s lived and brewed in Anchorage, Alaska, and Missoula, Mont., moved to Fort Collins to be closer to family, but said many of his friends moved here for beer.

“A lot of people move here because of the beer scene,” Westcott said, sitting in the Equinox tap room on Remington Street in Old Town.

Beer flows through the veins of many who live in Fort Collins, along with a large chunk of Colorado.

So when Mike Laur set out to create the fourth edition of the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado map, he did so with people like Westcott, Johnson, Schumacher and others in mind.

The recently-released pamphlet features an extensive map with the locations, addresses, phone numbers and hours of more than 125 breweries in Colorado, along with a plethora of information about beer.

Laur said the map’s goal was to promote the appreciation of craft beer in Colorado. “If we can help people find beer, all the better.”

But with all maps and personal stories aside, there’s clearly something in the water, or in the beer, that attracts Coloradans to beer and brewers to Colorado.

A sense of adventure and an eagerness to learn

Schumacher, among his other responsibilities at Odell’s, gives tours of the company’s facilities. So she said it’s exciting for her when people come in with a curious attitude.

“It’s cool when people come in with questions or they’re excited,” she said.

Especially in Fort Collins, New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson said, college-aged drinkers are exposed to a variety of good craft breweries.

Simpson attributes the good beer culture in town to that college-like mentality.

“There’s a really sophisticated college-aged drinker in this town,” Simpson said in the tap room of New Belgium’s brewery north of Old Town.

CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing head brewer Dwight Hall championed the sentiment, saying Coloradans are curious, especially when it comes to beer.

“People in the West seem more adventurous,” Hall said, adding, “People want to try new beer and are excited to try new beer.”

And that mindset fosters a sense of community among beer lovers, especially brewers, who in any other industry might be rivals or enemies.

“Brewers are different people,” Westcott said, adding that at any point during the week a customer is likely to see a number of brewers from different breweries around Fort Collins in the Equinox tap room.

“We all get along really well,” he said.

“There’s a mutual respect,” Schumacher said, adding that Odell’s looks at other brewers from the standpoint: “How can we learn from them? How can they learn from us?”

“Craft breweries really tend to band together,” Simpson said.

Good water and good legislation

According to Colorado’s manufacturing licensing law and rules, “Brewers or winers licensed … may solicit business directly from licensed retail persons or consumers by procuring a wholesaler’s license …”

Essentially, both Westcott and Laur said, brewers could sell up to 300,000 gallons of beer in Colorado directly to consumers and retailers, like liquor stores and bars.

In other states, they said, brewers must use a distributor as a middleman to sell alcohol to retailers. Because of this, brewers in other states have to fight for shelf space, on both trucks and in stores, and profit margins are smaller.

“(Colorado legislation) allows small brewers to start small,” Laur said, because they can use money from the sale of their product to brew more instead of giving that money to a distributer.

“State law makes it really easy for small breweries to exist,” Westcott said, who estimated the amount of home brewers in Fort Collins is in the thousands.

Brewers also said the water in Colorado, Fort Collins especially, lends itself to good brewing.

Simpson called the water in town “excellent,” not too hard or too soft. Hall called the municipal source of water “fantastic.”

“Beer is mostly water. If you don’t have good water, you’re going to make a pretty crappy beer,” Laur said. “With good water, you have the potential to make great beer.”

Beer keeps doing its job

Laur, who labels his business card “Favorite Beer: IPA,” said his favorite beer is “invariably the one that’s sitting in front of (him).”

And for all interviewed, not one could pinpoint a specific beer in which they love most.

“(Beer lovers) find a brand they love, then they tend to do a lot of sampling,” Simpson said, alluding to that curiosity among craft beer drinkers.

But in the end, Laur said, beer does the job of bringing people together.

“It helps (people) digest all the day’s good and bad problems. It helps people solve all the world’s problems,” Laur joked.

“Beer is a social lubricant; it makes people happy,” Westcott said.

And at the end of the day, Schumacher says, beer is just “kind of a good way to end your day.”

Managing Editor Johnny Hart can be reached at

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