Then and now: Longmont

Five iconic Longmont beers

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Revelers at Left Hand's Leftapalooza
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As far as the economists are concerned, Longmont’s beer scene is a “cluster:” a dense network of companies and institutions concentrated within a specific geography. You’ve heard the aphorism: A rising tide lifts all boats? Clusters are the tide.

Though it sounds desirable to operate without competition, lone businesses exist in a vacuum. They have little to no buying power, a small pool of candidates to hire from, and lack an educated consumer base. Multiple businesses alleviate those problems. They can partner and acquire resources at a lower cost, can trade employees and information freely, even share customers.

Longmont’s beer scene is one of the best examples of a cluster around. Thirty years ago, Longmont was home to 50,000 people but zero breweries. Today, the city is home to 95,000 and 11 breweries, two of which have extended the Colorado identity beyond American borders.

You’ll find that story in this month’s Insider Longmont. And since any story about beer goes better with one, here are five that helped build the Longmont beer scene.

Sawtooth Ale
Left Hand Brewing Company
The first beer Left Hand brewed was Sawtooth — an amber ale in the English bitter tradition. Because, as cofounder Eric Wallace explains, “Colorado was amber beer-driven. If you didn’t have an amber, you were nobody.”

Featuring chewy malt, herbal hops and a balanced drinking experience that’s hard to beat, Sawtooth set the stage for future flavors. Nowadays, you can find it nitrogenized, which gives the brew an extra creaminess and highlights the dry, nutty flavor of the malts. It’s still one of their best sellers — number two behind another nitro offering (more on No. 1 here).

Dale’s Pale Ale
Oskar Blues Brewery
Defiant, proud and voluminously hopped, Dale’s Pale Ale set the scene as Colorado’s original craft beer in a can. Caramel in color with a large pile of loose, rocky foam, Dale’s is citrusy and floral on the nose, slightly sweet and full-bodied in the mouth, and features a punch of bitterness for good measure.

Lush Puppy Juicy IPA
Bootstrap Brewing Co.
“Lush” is the perfect descriptor. Cloudy haze and a large pile of rocky foam in the glass, an aroma of vibrant tropical fruit, the taste of fresh oranges and soft citrus in the mouth, and a coating finish that gives the feeling of a full meal. It’s like breakfast during happy hour and vice versa.

Wibby IPL
Wibby Brewing
Bringing together the best of both worlds, IPL (India pale lager) is a bock beer (strong lager) with loads of late-addition American hops. It’s got a lovely candy apple red appearance, an aroma of hoppy pine and citrus, and a clean and malty finish.

ShibbleShabble
Primitive Beer
This 2-year-old beer was spontaneously fermented, barrel-aged and then blended to produce a sparkling nose of citrus, resin and a whiff of black tea. The mouth is a symphony of stony minerality, citrus, funky yeast and vinous complexity.