“Alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” —Homer J. Simpson
And then there was beer. It’s a pretty simple equation—water, wheat, barley and hops and you have something people can get behind.
I originally started writing about the Inaugural Steel City Brewfest at the Boats, Bands and BBQ but every time I started to write it would turn in the same direction—Pueblo is late to the beer party but it’s finally here.
Before industrialization and refrigeration, there was no such thing as craft beer. There was beer. Then there was no beer because of prohibition. But after prohibition, beer in America was like Wal-Mart visiting China for the first time; the entire country could be taken over, which Anheuser-Busch did.
The mass production of beer took off and minor brewers couldn’t make it. That led to super beer producers.
In the 1980s, Americans drank American beer and retired with a pension. Then sometime around 1986, some pretentious bicyclist who wore plaid and a Dukakis-Bentsen ball cap checked out “How To Make Your Own Beer” at a library and that’s how the craft beer movement was started in Colorado.
For Southern Colorado the story of beer was like most American cities after the Civil War, breweries produced the golden beverage then prohibition happened and then poof—breweries had to shut down because of Johnny Law.
When alcohol was legal, regional breweries returned only to either get bought out by the larger companies or shut down.
Where producers couldn’t make it, brew pubs prospered, like Shamrock Brewing Company in Pueblo, Royal Gorge Brewing in Canon City, San Luis Brewing in Alamosa among others. The anchors of the beer revolution settled in.
Unlike Colorado Springs, there was no great beer movement in Southern Colorado. Instead craft beer could be bought at liquor stores but that’s not the same. It’s the difference between buying candy from Willy Wonka or visiting his candy factory and swimming in the chocolate lake.
And still the Shamrock, Royal Gorge and SLB held the line.
Finally for Southern Colorado, Walter’s Brewery opened this year in Pueblo; Brews Bros. plans to open next year in Pueblo. Other brew pubs and breweries surely are coming down the pipeline. There are signs of something more is coming.
With Walter’s Beer, it’s different. With all the bells, hipster logos and over-hoppy, craft beer from up north, Walter’s symbolizes the arrival of a beer culture in Southern Colorado. It didn’t do the heavy lifting yet. But its brand unlike anything else in the state is loved for one very reason—it’s a return of nostalgia, the connection between your father and grandfather. A drop of condensation on a cold Walter’s today, is the same as it was fifty years ago.
Still there’s more, so much more, that Brian Crosson and his group of seven merry brewers have formed their own homebrew club—Steel City Brewers. The image of crazy scientists mixing fermented grains in the bathtub might not be far off but the larger story here is bringing a beer festival to the area.
The Steel City Brewfest isn’t the biggest. It’s not going to supplant the Great American Beer Fest in Denver, but it’s an idea of something better, something bigger just out on the horizon.
That isn’t said often. Sure there are parades, music festivals, street festivals, and festival fests. But, the look on the faces and the general appearance of inertia at these events is a look of, “This it? What else is there to do?”
Maybe it’s the beer but not a single face at the Brewfest had the look of wanting to be somewhere else. The art elites could mingle with the country boys and beer was the great equalizer. Where does that happen?
And that credit goes to the Steel City Brewers and Christine Pittman at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk Foundation.
The story of beer in Southern Colorado, has nothing to do with beer. It’s a story where the many towns and cities had their own local brewery and local flavor. The return of beer, at least here in this region, is the story of the return of our flavor—the return of nostalgia.
From San Luis Brewing, to the Shamrock to the Steel City Brewfest, from Christine Pittman at HARP, to Andy Sanchez at Walter’s Beer—few can say they were the solution to our nostalgia problem.