I love beer. Amber is my favorite, and it has to be microbrew. If you join me for one, I’ll spot you the first. Here is the unedited original of this story:
A Brief History of Beer
By Cecily Whiteside
The nectar of the gods, also known as beer, has had a long and celebrated history. According to Linda Raley, a beer historian from Texas Tech University, beer was one of Noah’s provisions on the Ark, there are Babylonian clay tablets from 4300 BC with beer recipes, and there were over 100 medical texts from ancient Egypt calling for beer.
In 55 BC, Roman legions introduced beer to Northern Europe. Since then it has become almost a religion in western culture. In fact, it was used as a tithe to the Catholic Church in Medieval times and Queen Elizabeth would take strong drink for breakfast. Beer making was a very important part of colonial life in America, and by 1880, there were in the neighborhood of 2,300 breweries in the U.S. Then prohibition happened. A failed experiment, it did not decrease either organized crime or drinking, although it did foment a spirit of law-breaking in the average citizen. But by the time it was repealed, only about 160 breweries survived in the nation. Just to put that in perspective, last year there were 161 breweries in Colorado alone.
But how did beer come to Colorado, you may ask. Ah, that is another (more recent) story.
Many credit Charlie Papazian with being the “father of home brewing.” He started brewing while he was a student in Virginia in the 1970’s, then moved to Boulder, where he taught others interested in the concept of alternatives to the pale flavorless beer that was de rigueur at the time. President Carter had just signed a law that made it legal to home-brew and (shades of marijuana in the last few years) Colorado was where it took hold.
The first brewery was Boulder Beer Company, the first brewpub was Wyncoop Brewing, started by John Hickenlooper (yes, Govenor Hickenlooper, one and the same) and Russ Schehrer, one of Charlie’s students, also located in Boulder. The Rockslide brought microbrewing to the Western Slope in the mid-90’s, and it’s only gotten better in the ensuing 20 years.
Colorado leads the way in the nation for craft beers, with the highest number of craft breweries per capita. We are number two in terms of total craft breweries and number one in terms of sheer volume beer production.
The Western Slope has seen the number and variety of beer grow exponentially over the past several years. Try one of our local brewpubs for a pint of the fine beer. Here’s to cold nights, warm friends, and a good drink to give them.
What is the difference between an ale and a lager? It’s all about the yeast. Ales are made with a top-fermenting yeast that ferments at a higher temperature than lagers. They are usually stored between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and taste fruitier and spicier than their lager cousins. Most beers brewed before the mid-1880’s were ales, before refrigeration was available.
Lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast that need a lower temperature to work, so they are fermented at temperatures between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Most high volume U.S. beers fall into this category; Coors light, Corona, Heineken and Budweiser are a few examples.
Micro breweries usually have a combination of ales and lagers – so try them all!
Want to drink your craft beer at home? Fill a growler at the brewpub, and take it home to share with friends. The modern glass growler was first introduced by a brewer in Wyoming, but every local brewpub has one these days. Some will fill anybody’s growler with their beer (they’re just glad you’re drinking their brew) but some will only fill up their own, so you may need to start a growler collection if you frequent several breweries.
George Washington’s small beer recipe, as written in his diary:
To Make Small Beer
Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste.–Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. Let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask–leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working–Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed. (Reprinted from the American Homebrewers Association website. Apparently it’s not that great. If you want something better try one of the beers from a local brewery listed.)
- Western Colorado Breweries:
- Kannah Creek Brewing, Grand Junction
- Rockslide Brewing, Grand Junction
- Suds Brothers Brewery, Fruita
- Copper Club Brewing Company, Fruita
- Palisade Brewery, Palisade
- Revolution Brewing, Paonia
- Two Rascals Brewing, Montrose
- Horsefly Brewing Company, Montrose
- Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery, Ridgway
- Ouray Brewery, Ouray
- Ourayle House (AKA Mr. Grumpypants) Brewing Company, Ouray
- Telluride Brewing Company, Telluride
- Smuggler’s Brew Pub, Telluride
- Avalanche Brewing Company, Silverton
- Silverton Brewery, Silverton
- Dolores River Brewery, Dolores
- Eldo Brewery & Taproom, Crested Butte
- Gunnison Brewery, Gunnison
- Casey Brewing and Blending, Glenwood Springs
- Glenwood Brewing Company, Glenwood Springs
- Aspen Brewing Company, Aspen
- Give a man a beer, waste an hour. Teach a man to brew, and waste a lifetime! – Bill Owen, Actor
- Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world. – Kaiser Wilhelm
- Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. – Kinky Friedman]
Published with permission of Grand Valley Magazine