Colorado Beer Week could be the start of an annual spring toast to the state's brewers
Seattle has a beer week. So do Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. San Francisco's and Philadelphia's are famous world wide. Hell, even Eugene, Oregon; Louisville, Kentucky; and the entire state of Alabama have beer weeks.
Denver has the Great American Beer Festival and the surrounding Denver Beer Fest events, but it's not the same thing as a week (or more) dedicated solely to the craft beer that is conceived, brewed and happily consumed in this beautiful square state.
And it's not in the spring, a sometimes slow time of year during which Colorado brewers have long wanted to see a beer fest along the lines of Denver Restaurant Week.
But with the debut of Colorado Beer Week, which runs from April 8-16, that could be changing. Organized by brothers Scott and Jason Kerkmans, the festival will be small (at least this time) and centralized in Denver, but that is how they wanted it.
Denver Beer Fest had more than 150 associated events, Scott points out. "People can get lost and not know where to turn or what beer they are drinking when you have that much going on. I really don't want that for Colorado Beer Week."
Instead, there will be a total of thirty events, including one "premiere" event each day (see www.CoBeerWeek.com for the full list). And while some of the events are pretty high-dollar -- ranging in price from $25 to $40 -- they are also fairly unusual and most include rare or special beers not widely available elsewhere. (You can enter a drawing to win a pass to several of the events, a $160 value, by posting Colorado beer-inspired picture at www.facebook.com/ColoradoBeerWeek and having your friends "like" it.)
"We are in such a beer-centric place," says Scott, who earned a beery claim to fame in 2008 when he became the Chief Beer Officer for the Four Points by Sheraton hotel chain. "We have GABF in the fall, so what better complement to that than one in the spring? And we are going to tie in food, which isn't always done at beer festivals."
And while most of the events will focus on Colorado beers, a couple of out-of-state breweries like Rogue and Alaska "stepped up to the plate," so there will be a couple of events featuring their well-known beers as well.
Two years ago, longtime brewery marketing man Marty Jones looked into organizing a springtime Denver Beer Week that would rival those in other cities, especially Philly. In fact, he even acquired the Internet domain name, www.denverbeerweek.com.
But Jones, who now works for Wynkoop Holdings, put that plan on hold after the city's convention and visitor's bureau, created Denver Beer Fest, a ten-day extravaganza that surrounds the Great American Beer Festival each fall.
And while Denver Beer Fest certainly capitalized on the beer fever -- and the out of town guests who poured into town for GABF -- it's taxing on the breweries themselves, says Steven Kurowski, the new marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild.
"It's difficult for them to buy into that 100 percent because of GABF. A lot of smaller brewers from elsewhere in Colorado can't send people down to Denver for two weeks in a row," Kurowski says. "But Colorado Beer Week comes at a great time, when breweries are launching their spring seasonals. We would love to see it take off."
As for Jones, he says "the town needs a spring beer week, so I am glad [Scott] is taking a shot at it. We all wanted a beer week that takes place around this time of year when things are quieter -- something to rival the other beer weeks in other great beer cities."
[UPDATE: The following event at the Wynkoop has been cancelled.]
In fact, the Wynkoop will host the closing event for Colorado Beer Week (April 16, from noon to 3:30 p.m.; $35), an event that will include twenty breweries and fifty to sixty choice beers. "Everyone has pledged to bring good stuff," Jones says.
And if Colorado Beer Week doesn't turn out to be what the brewers want, well, Jones still owns his domain name, while local restaurant consultant John Imbergamo owns www.coloradobeerweek.com, something he grabbed a couple of years ago when Grant (who has www.DenverBeerFest.com) and Jones began discussing the concept.
"When people start talking about things, I'll go out and buy a few domain names, and when something finally coalesces, I'll usually just give it to them," Imbergamo says. "I'd rather have it reserved rather than have some squatter take it."
Imbergamo currently owns a couple dozen domain names, including www.eatdenver.com, the site for the Denver Independent Restaurant Network, but he says he's never sold one, preferring to donate them. But he says he hasn't heard from the Kerkmans, who own www.COBeerWeek.com.
If they are successful, he just might.