Reader: Denver's conservative beer culture is no match for Portland

greatdividedenver.jpg
Aaron Thackeray
Celebrating Denver beer culture at the Great Divide birthday party.
Beer here! A recent transplant from Portland, Oregon, found Colorado Beer Man's comparison of the Denver beer scene to that of Portland. And in this newcomer's view, Denver's not the winner.

Here's the bad beer news from Smtidongaoryboo:


Just moved here from Portland, completely disagree with this article on the quality front. There are some world class breweries here: Great Divide, Avery, Left Hand, Oskar Blues and a hand full of small brewers do excellent brewing and are creative. But honestly Colorado doesn't hold much of a candle compared to Portland. The level of creativity the brewers exercise in Portland is consistently much higher and the quality that is expected is also much higher. I have to seek a good brew pub here in Denver. In Portland 95% of the brewpubs are excellent, the culture there pushes the limits on quality and creativity. Denver is more conservative in general and it definitely effects the beer culture. We have some very good brewing here but it somehow seems more corporate and plastic and far less risky. Good beer can be found here but Portland has amazing beer cascading out of its pours...

Conservative? See more -- lots more -- of Denver's beer culture in this slide show of Great Divide's seventeenth birthday party on Saturday.

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24 comments
crybaby
crybaby

Then, by all means, go back to Portland!  or, if you must stay in CO, you should try Boulder.  PLENTY of wussy whiners up there.

As someone stuck on the godforsaken East Coast, you have NO idea how lucky you are. 

DenverScener
DenverScener

Yeah, yeah, yeah - the Portland crybabies are at it again! Portland people are (you pick): snobby, weak, insecure, lazy, ethno-centric, eunuchs, uptight assholes, sexually repressed Dungeon and dragons fans, etc. etc. Denver could kick Portland and Oregons ass in a street fight and then would piss in its beer and on your androgynous partner.I guess people always go for the King at the Top - wonder if any Denver people troll Portland weeklys? Probably not - we got a great city and don't need to care about doom and gloom like old PDX. 

Not a PDX hipster
Not a PDX hipster

As a Oregon Native, now living in Denver, I think both places have great tasting quality beers, and breweries.  I think the debate is misguided though.  It should be the states as a whole, instead of the cities. If it's Portland vs.Denver, of course portland would win, it has a larger selection to choose from... but if you open it up to the state level I believe, with Colorado having quality breweries in Longmont, FOCO, Lyons, etc...and some of the best breweries in Oregon being in Newport, Bend, Eugene, Ashland ..etc...  I think for those of us that have proudly drank both there is room for two at the top!!!  (Love Deschutes, love Widmer, Love Full Sail, love breck, left hand, oskar blues, etc...) Tough call...tough call...

Stealth2
Stealth2

Since moving here from Chicago a little more than a year ago, I rarely defend Denver on many things (yes, I'm one of those "it was better here..." guys, like the writer). But I have to defend Denver on this one. No, I haven't been to Portland (but I've had plenty of beers from Portland, including the one I had last night) and don't know how "creative" they are with their beer (I'm guessing they use bacon or something), but Denver and the nearby area has such a wide variety of beer brewers and choices that to make a statement like the one made by the original writer is asinine. There may be differences, sure, but differences don't automatically mean excellence. "Amazing" beer is an opinion, not a fact. And if you've ever been to Great Divide or Avery or Strange Breweing, among others, "corporate and plasticky" are the last words that come to mind.

Jon S
Jon S

I know we've already hashed this debate out, but one of the biggest differences between Portland and Denver is that there is a very specific Portland beer scene of small pubs, while here everyone considers the local beer culture to be about all of Colorado, not any specific city. When someone talks about a local brew here, they just mean it's from Colorado, not necessarily from Denver, or Boulder, or Ft. Collins etc.

And since the entire state is the "local" market, it does tend to allow Colorado brewers to reach a larger scale and market than in Portland, where the definition of "local" is really a very hyper-local concept, almost meaning down to a neighborhood. I think what Portland has going on culturally is great, since you can just stumble upon a nice cozy pub while walking around.

That being said, that larger scale and state-wide competition means that the overall quality of Colorado brew is higher. Colorado flat out, hands-down has better beer than Portland. I believe in the original comments someone argued that it was unfair to compare the entire state of Colorado to the city of Portland. But go ahead and put Colorado beer against Oregon as a whole. Which Oregon brewery do you think has the best beer overall throughout their lineup? Rogue, Full Sail, BridgePort, or Deschutes maybe?

All very good, but frankly, let's say you took the very best brewery in Oregon and relocated it to one of these Colorado towns: Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins or even Longmont. It would be no better than the 3rd best brewery in any single one of those cities.

I'm not hating on Portland or Oregon, but you have to be realistic. Portland's beer quality does not match it's beer culture. Trying to argue that the beer there is better than Colorado is simply ludicrous. That would be like me saying that because we now have a few high quality Colorado wineries, that Colorado wine is better than Oregon's.

So Oregon, be happy with your superior wines and burgeoning and improving beer scene, while we here in Colorado will be happy with our superior beer and burgeoning and improving wine scene, and let's all call it a day.

Mantonat
Mantonat

Why not just take Denver for what it is and try to root out the best of it rather than comparing it to someplace else? And if you don't see something you want, talk to the local brewers. Portland guy, have you been to Strange Brewing, Yak & Yeti, Bull & Bush. Elk Mountain, Dry Dock, or Upslope? Have you had the bottled beers of Funkwerks or the Lips of Faith beers from New Belgium in nearby Ft. Collins? The thing about the Colorado craft beer scene is that it is dominated by the breweries you mention, but there are many hidden gems worth seeking out  (not all of them within fixie-riding distance). The Denver metro area is much more spread out than Portland, so it's not as easy to stumble across microbreweries, but try a few places like Hops & Pie, the Rackhouse, and Freshcraft, City O City, who offer some one-off beers from some of the smaller breweries, many times in one-of-a-kind firkin format.

Hipychic
Hipychic

Seriously? Do I have to defend the awesome beer culture that I have found in Colorado?  Get outta Denver better go...to Boulder and northward.  You obvouisly haven't been to Avery Tap Room.  Their special tappings and limited releases are STUPENDOUS.  Boulder Beer has delicious offerings as well.  Even their widely distributed  Singletrack has much to brag about having a competitors star brew, Fat Tire, modeled after its recipe.  And speaking of New Belgium, can I say YUMMY!  You mentioned Oscar Blues and Left Hand.  Those two alone could have put us in the Beer Destination Handbook.In short, Portland, you ain't seen nothin yet.

anon
anon

Interesting.  Just hosted 4 friends from Portland a few weeks ago (3 of which have spent most of their lives there).  All 4 agreed that, while Portland has more beer/brewpubs, most of them produce mediocre to bad beer.  They were also amazed at how much better the Denver beer quality was than Portland.  So, at least for those Portlanders, the Westword column was spot on.

Steve
Steve

The dream of the 90's is alive in Portland!

Wade Sears
Wade Sears

like many of these types of debates, they are grounded in localism. he just moved here so he still wants to find the type of places that he frequented in portland. i understand that desire; having spent most of my adult life living in many cities for roughly 2 year stays.

not really understanding what this person means by 'more conservative' than portland; do they mean more local brews available in more parts of the country, meaning he has not found a beer here that he has not seen in portland? highly possible, as i found this to be a problem myself when traveling.

does this person mean, smaller 'funkier' types of brewpubs? (think Steubans with a brew kettle) if that is the case then he is correct, partially. while i cannot speak to his experiences in portland; i know that when i lived there and went to about half a dozen differing brewpubs, most were along the lines of the Breckinridge brewpub on Kalamath; an off the path warehouse in an area being gentrified, owned by a larger beer producing corporation. what these places did not do was name the establishment after the larger business. (the rackhouse here could be a whiskey-pub, but chose a differing name for the pub, even though the distillery is on site) in fact at least two were directly affiliated with Rogue brewery, but the pub name and the beers were all labelled differently - i only found out about the connection by looking up the pubs online, and was taken directly to the rogue site (pull down menus on the site confirmed the information.)

the most local instance of this type of business practice would be the Sand Lot, except they brew all the 'specialty micros' for MillerCoors.

Vigor
Vigor

Sorry Denver, Portland had many first so whomever starts a lot of it wins, case closed, it doesn't matter which is the better one currently it makes others a copycat. Give Portland some credit at least and quit picking on them for their initial creativity.

PortlandScener
PortlandScener

Some Thoughts:

Draft Magazine America's best beer bars Portland has 7 mentioned, Denver has 1. Travel Mag: Portland ranked number 1 as a beer city Denver ranked 2. Beer Stores in PDX  that out-stock Denver liquor stores anyday: Belmont Station (1200 plus beers in stock, rotating taps nice tasting room), Pearl Specialty Market (1000+ beers in stock) , Johns Market (over 1000 different beers in stock). (beyond that most grocery stores in Portland have a better beer selection than your average Colorado liquor store.) Portland has more microbreweries per ca-pita  than any other city in the world. Just in the the city limits! Often when people talk about Denver they mention breweries which are not in it's city limits but in other cities in Colorado minutes away or in the mountains. 

DenverScener
DenverScener

Move back to the fuckin midwest ya dooche! Chicago is over-hyped, way too conservative and the weather fuckin sucks. Oh and guess what - there is nowhere to go on the weekends besides Wisco or the Lake. Denver>Chicago.

epl
epl

I'll open this discussion back up in light of a recent trip to Oregon and say that I completely agree with Jon S.'s assertion.  Portland wins on culture and quantity, but lacks on quality.

First and foremost, I visited and drank at several breweries which poured me some great beers including Rogue, Block 15, Ninkasi, Uprite, Cascade, and Hopworks, and was able to sample several others in bars/restaurants (Oakshire and Hair of the Dog.)  I had very few bad beers, but, also, very few that I would necesarily buy again.  Of all of them, Cascade was by far the best--in large part because it reminded me of a Colorado brewery with its creativity.  Ninkasi also sticks out as a winner.  Uprite, on the other hand, while trying to be creative, was very disapointing.  Not only was the guy working there a complete dick (especially when he realized I was from Denver, at which point he completely dismissed me), but the beers I tasted (four, five, six, and seven) were all one-dimensional and boring.  Wish I could have that 30 minutes back... 

In the end, I think Portland's beer culture actually hurts the quality of beer.  Brewery after brewery (with the exception of Cascade and Uprite) had the same tired board of super-hoppy beers.  The culture in Portland encourages overly hopped beers and, as a result, you end up with only a mash of pale ales, IPAs, IIPAs, and reds.  At some point the beers begin to run together--both because my pallete was destroyed and because the distinctions between the beers were limited the IBUs, which becomes pretty superficial .  I came away realizing how great Colorado beers are because the brewers will manipulate all three main elements of beer--grains, hops, and yeast--to create different varities.  I felt like in Portland they only worried about the hops.  With that said, the IPAs were great, especially at Hopworks and Hair of the Dog.

ericmsteen
ericmsteen

Oregon has a whole has a lot of great stuff, it's just not available here...think of Upright, Cascade, Block 15, Caldera, Laurelwood, Hopworks, Ninkasi, Oakshire, Barley Brown, and others. They are phenomenal.

I'm an Oregon transplant in Colorado and I've engaged in these discussions but ultimately I've decided that the places are just way too different. Yes, Colorado has some fucking amazing beers, so does Oregon. In Portland, you just have to walk down the street and every pub is great. In Colorado there aren't too many places where that's possible, especially not at the same level. So, what can we say? Until people have tried both places in depth they have nothing to say. I have and my conclusion is that both places are great, both offer top quality beer I'd just prefer to not have to drive everywhere. That's my main complaint in Colorado.

Hipychic
Hipychic

Thanks for all the tips, Mantonat.  I haven't even heard of half of those, but am still young.  You sold me!  I'll let you know if I run into Portland guy.

anon
anon

I should also point out that my PDX friends noted how Portlanders have an irrational hatred for Colorado beer, which seems to be showing through in the above comments.  I suspect his beef with Colorado beer has a little to do with just moving here (as suggested by Wade Sears) and a little to do with being indoctrinated with the "Colorado beer sucks" mantra of Portland.  I also suspect that Mr. Smitiwhatever did not attend the Boulder Sourfest last weekend, which was heavy on experimental Colorado beers, but didn't have a strong Oregon showing. 

Steve
Steve

Apparently no one watches Portlandia on IFC? Funny stuff.

Quake
Quake

I'm sure Denver would seem more liberal if our population was derived of transplanted, underemployed trust fund kids pretending to be poor, like Portland. However, many Denver residents need to work traditional office jobs to make ends meet, which keeps things here seemingly more conservative than Portland.

Mantonat
Mantonat

You're watching it? Portlandia is so over!

 Oregonian living in Denverrr
Oregonian living in Denverrr

Wow, you've obviously never been to Portland or Oregon!  I'm an Oregon native that had to work my ass off, for everything I've ever got.  A small percentage of Portland doesn't speak for the city at large...but keep getting your facts from sarcastic hipster comedy shows... (-__-)

Jay
Jay

True. If you're in your 20s and want to live in the west but not CA, Vegas or a tea-party infested shit hole (i.e. Arizona/Utah) and...

A. you went to a small, private, obscure, expensive, liberal arts school, majored in _______  Studies, have a trust fund, have no student loans and have no need to work: You move to Portland.B. you wen to a state school, have student loan debt, majored in business and need a real job: You move to Denver.

Jay
Jay

The comment was referring Portland transplants, not OR natives.

ericmsteen
ericmsteen

I'm option B, schooled in Oregon and now I'm in Colorado

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