The Wynkoop is now 25 -- but what would Denver look like if it had never been born?

Scott Lentz
The Wynkoop Brewing Company celebrated its 25th anniversary Saturday night. For a decade, Westword's offices were right across the street from the Wynkoop, and we spent many an afternoon, and evening, and night, um, "working" in the bar. If the Wynkoop hadn't been there, we would have saved a lot of money. But we would have missed a lot of memories, too -- and that got us thinking about what Denver would like like if the Wynkoop, Colorado's first brewpub, had never been born. With apologies to Stewart, here's our version of "It's a Wynderful Life."

See also: Slide show of Wynkoop's 25th anniversary party

Photo by Kim Allen,
John Hickenlooper, Jerry Williams, Mark Shifler and Russell Scherer in 1988, the year they opened the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

If the Wynkoop had never been born:

5) More Westword staffers would have more of their livers;

4) Coors Field would never have been built in the old warehouse area just past LoDo, two blocks from the Wynkoop. Without the economic catalyst the brewpub provided, the site would have been too risky in the early '90s;

3) The Ballpark would instead have gone where the Pepsi Center is today, and Riverfront and the Platte Valley would be parking lots, not neighborhoods;

2) There would be no Patty's Chile Beer, a creation invented by Russell Scherer, the original brewer who knew how Westword's editor liked spicy food; and, almost as significant...

1) John Hickenlooper would not be the governor of Colorado.

Hickenlooper was an unemployed geologist when he got the idea of opening the first brewpub in Colorado in an old warehouse in a rundown part of town that just been designated the LoDo Historic District; he partnered with Scherer and his then-wife, Barbara Macfarlane (today an owner of Marczyk Fine Foods); old college friend Jerry Williams and his wife, Martha; and chef Mark Shifler.

Hickenlooper met many members of the press and political types at the bar, and when a few curmudgeons started grousing about the deal to sell naming rights for the new, taxpayer-funded football stadium to Invesco, Hickenlooper created a campaign to save the Mile High name -- or at least some of it. That led to his first mayoral campaign, in 2003; in 2010, he made the move to governor.

Have any plot twists for "It's a Wynderful Life"? Post them below. And in the meantime, here's one more: Without the Wynkoop Brewing Company, there would definitely be no Session Kitchen, the restaurant that the Breckenridge-Wynkoop group just opened today at 1518 South Pearl Street.

Scott Lentz

Location Info

Wynkoop Brewing Company

1634 18th St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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