American Craft Beer Week has found a home in cities nationwide, but Boulder remains the hoppy heartland for those who want a little more sophistication with their brews.
The Boulder-based Brewers Association is a microbrewery trade group dedicated to promoting the relevance of craft beer as an industry and beverage. The organization is promoting the fifth annual American Craft Beer week, held May 16 to May 22.
“With the excitement around craft beer, Boulder is very proud of the local breweries and the success that they’ve had, just being the producer of a product the people really love and enjoy,” says Andy Sparhawk of the Brewers Association. “This week is a just a great way to recognize that and celebrate that.”
The association’s Boulder location places it alongside many craft breweries that have helped cultivate Colorado’s reputation as the Napa Valley of beer. Colorado beer might have comparable quality to Napa wines, but the attitude toward beer often differs.
“We don’t spit or stick out our thumbs,” says Steve Turner, co-owner of organic brewery Asher Brewing Company. “You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to like beer and find what you like.”
And there has never been a better time to explore the lush flavors of craft beer.
Local breweries like Asher and Avery Brewing Company are celebrating American Craft Beer Week with educational events and fun deals designed to support the Boulder community and spread awareness of the economic and social implications of craft beer.
Asher Brewery fans can look forward to a dollar off their pints all week if they come in wearing branded gear. They will also have a menu-sampling and beer-pairing throughout the week with the Roasting Box, a new mobile food truck in Boulder. The organic brewery will be featured on Colorado Craft Beer Radio on 760 AM at noon on Saturdays.
On Thursday, May 19, Avery Brewing Company is hosting a barrel-aged beer seminar through its beer interest group, the Society of the Pursuit of Hoppiness.
“That involves our barrel herder, Andy Parker, who is a senior brewer,” says C.V. Howe, marketing director for Avery. “He’s in charge of all of our barrelaging programs, educating people on barrel-aging and what we’re seeking to achieve. So of course while he’s doing that we will be serving the beers that he’s talk ing about.”
On Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m., Avery will be tapping a keg of Dihos Dactylion, the brewery’s extremely rare, barrel-aged, sour ale. The etymology of the name is Greek, meaning “missing the tip of your finger.”
The beer is named after Fred Rizzo, a butcher-turned-brewer who lost the tip of his finger before joining the Avery Brewing Company.
Naming a brew in tribute to an employee marks the communal nature of craft breweries and the social culture that exists around this type of beer.
“Socially, what better way is there to kind of connect with friends than to go out to a local brewpub or craft brewery and eat over a good beer after work?” Howe says. “We try to foster that community feeling in our taproom here and also within the walls of our own brewery. We like to think of ourselves as a community that gets along really well. Our taproom is such a great place to socialize and connect with people.”
With its layers of flavor and narrative origins of development, craft beer instigates conversation and builds community in taprooms and restaurants. Giving back to the local community is something Asher Brewing Company devotes itself to financially, donating 10 percent of proceeds to local charities and similar organizations.
“I think a brewery should be part of the community,” Turner says, “and one of the things that we like to do is hold events and go to events that have some sort of give-back to charity and some sort of community cause that we believe in.”
Asher Brewing Company uses organic ingredients to represent its dedication to promoting local sustainability and health for the environment, beverage and consumer, Turner says.
The Society of the Pursuit of Hoppiness hosts educational opportunities every month.
“Next month it might be something about pairing different styles of beer and cheeses,” Howe says. “It’s all about challenging yourself and learning.”
Wine has long held the position of the beverage most eloquently paired with food, but robust craft beers are accelerating into restaurants and onto kitchen tables, resting alongside sophisticated meals.
“I think that yellow, fizzy beers don’t really lend themselves much to food pairings or as an ingredient,” Turner says. “I think that the craft brewing movement is a return to tradition, flavor and diversity as much as it is to anything else. And these flavors do lend themselves to food pairings.”
American Craft Beer Week marks a united front against the long-held stigma that beer is lowbrow and flavorless, and perceptions are changing “because of the amount of craft brewers in the country, and essentially all the brewers showing how diverse [beer] is and the incredible flavors you can get in craft beer, and just through education,” Howe says.
And despite the recession, the industry has seen growth.
In 2010, the craft brewing industry grew 11 percent by volume and 12 percent in profits and provided an estimated 100,000 jobs in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association website (www.brewersassociation.org/pages/ business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/facts).
“The whole industry is on a linear, accelerating curve. Sales just keep rising,” Turner says. “The economy has something to do with it. High-end wine and liquor sales have taken a beating in this economy, and craft beer has benefited from that. People might not want to buy a $30 bottle of wine, but you can buy $30 of craft beer and that goes further.”