Last night the Wynkoop tapped Hickenloooper’s InaugurAle, a beer brewed to honor the Koop’s founder John Hickenlooper. For those that have not heard, the former mayor of Denver won last November’s gubernatorial election and will be sworn into office on January 11th. To celebrate the occasion, head brewer Andy Brown created the special brew.
Inaugurale is a cross between a Brown Ale and a Winter Warmer. Weighing in at 6.8% abv, it is definitely not a Newcastle Brown Ale clone. The beer is actually an offshoot of the former Wynkoop staple Flying Artillery Ale. (Now a rotator.) There are a few twists for this version, including the use of local ingredients. Inaugurale is made with oats, honey malt, crystal malt, black patent, chocolate malt, and Colorado-grown base malts. In addition, Colorado beet sugar is added to the boil for complexity and to boost the original gravity. Given this beer is brewed to honor Colorado’s governor-elect, it is fitting that Colorado ingredients make up the majority of the frementables. Andy Brown’s concoctions are consistently delicious, and Inaugurale is no different. My friends and I had a few pints last night and enjoyed every drop. Governor-elect Hickenlooper was in the building for the tapping, and he signed a poster of the beer’s logo for the brewers. Andy came by our table proudly showing it off and said he intended to frame the poster and hang it in the brewery.
John Hickenlooper is obviously popular in Denver and Colorado, but he is more than that to area beer lovers – he is a hero. John and three friends (Russell Scherer, Mark Schiffler, and Jerry Williams) had a vision back in 1988 – to open a brewery in a run-down part of old Denver. But there was a problem. At the time, Colorado law prohibited brewpubs. John successfully lobbied to have that law changed, which laid the foundation for the opening of Colorado’s first modern era craft brewery, The Wynkoop Brewing Company. Now, 22 years later, there are over 100 breweries in Colorado – the “Napa Valley of Beer.” The governor-elect was not simply lucky, being at the right place at the right time, rather he paved the way for craft brewing and started a revolution. Now when people think of Colorado, they think of beer. (A quick aside. Joycelyn and I were bellied up to the bar eating dinner at a packed Czech-style restaurant in Stockholm Sweden back in 2008. A Swede sitting next to us at the bar was eavesdropping on our discussion and found out we were from Colorado. He excitedly butted into our conversation and went on and on about how bad he wanted to visit Colorado and travel around touring all of the breweries and take in festivals. Not England, not Germany, not Belgium, but Colorado! We’re big, even in Europe!) And not only did John and his buddies create an industry, they revitalized an entire section of the city of Denver – an area now affectionately known as LoDo (Lower Downtown). During my first visit to the Wynkoop in 1990, there was nothing except for vacated buildings and bums for blocks around crossing of 18th and Wynkoop streets. Now that area of town is bustling with activity with restaurants, bars, clubs, and of course other breweries, at every turn. Would this have happened anyway without John? Maybe… eventually… probably… But it still took someone with the vision to do it, and John was that person.
It will be great to have a friend of business and brewing serving as the Governor of Colorado. If you get a chance, head down to the Wynkoop for a pint of the beer made in his honor. Only 15 barrels of Inaugurale were made, so it will probably be gone before the end of January. And while you are there take some time to walk around the halls and side rooms of the main level and upstairs of the building. You will be able to see some great old pictures of the brewery building and the area from the late 80’s. It is amazing how much things have changed in a little over two decades.