One of the things that helped me get deep into craft beer when I moved to Colorado was the variety of different beers I found at some of my local liquor stores. I was always impressed that I could find a brewery I had never heard of before, and try a beer from an old favorite that I never had the chance to try before. The selections that were available to me helped me slide down into the rabbit hole, where there was no escape. Craft beer had me, and that was it.
I don’t think it’s just my story, but I think that’s a story that could be retold all over the state. I believe one of the reason’s why our craft beer scene is so strong and unique is because of the small, independent, local liquor stores that reside in our community. Since we are a self-distribute state, in theory I could walk into any store and ask for shelf space (if we were canning at the current moment, which we’re not…). I could work directly with the store owner, or in a bigger store, the designated beer buyer. I could spend time with them and teach them about what makes my product unique and special, and they could relay that information onto the consumer. I love walking into some of my favorite liquor stores and being able to chew the fat with them and get their opinions about the new bottles on the shelf. I appreciate their palette and opinion, and their analysis is sometimes very influential into which bottle (or in many cases, bottles) are coming home with me. This type of expertise and customer service is another example of what I’m looking for as a consumer.
I may be a little biased as I come from a small business family and I currently own a small business, but I love supporting small, local business. Don’t get me wrong, I do order on Amazon Prime from time to time, but I try to buy local as much as I can. I really enjoy seeing new breweries getting shelf space in my local liquor stores. Sometimes I’ve only just heard of the brewery, other times I’ve seen them at a beer festival we’re both pouring at. Since we’ve opened up Joyride, I don’t get the opportunity to go brewery hopping as much as I used to, so my experience with a lot of breweries, especially ones that have opened in the past two years, is usually limited. So that liquor store is my gateway to exploring some of Colorado’s craft scene.
I have reservations about the expertise and craft beer knowledge that a Walmart or King Soopers employee will have, especially if there are undersage. Would I be dealing with a local individual or someone in the corporate office? If it’s someone in the corporate office, how am I to get them to try my product, which I work really hard to create, and explain to them how it is unique and special? If I can’t get them to buy in on how special my product is, how are they going to relay that to their employees? Would I even get an opportunity to train the local employees, and would the people I’d be training actually be champions for craft beer? I’m unconvinced they would be as knowledgeable or passionate about the craft beer scene as my local liquor stores are.
But would small guys like me even be given a chance? Or would the shelf space be filled with the big players in the craft beer industry who have large distribution networks? Or, even worse, would the craft beer section be filled with faux craft beer like Shock Top, Blue Moon, Goose Island, Elysian and 10 Barrel? I totally see the convenience of picking up an Odell 6 pack while grocery shopping (they’re one of my favorite Colorado breweries), but I feel that convenience would come with a price to pay by the smaller guys, and selection would suffer.
Eventually, the small, local, independent liquor store owner who lives in your neighborhood and keeps his profits in our community might have to close their doors because they’ve lost too much business to the giant, corporate big box stores that ship their profits out of state. That’s not good for our community, and it’s not good for Colorado. One hundred dollars spent at a local business keeps roughly $68 in the local economy, as opposed to only $43 if you spend the same at a large business (Source: Civic Economics Study in Grand Rapids, Michigan). Small businesses are more in tune with local issues, and according to the Seattle Good Business Network, we donate 250% more to non-profits and community causes than larger businesses.
So, in short, small, local and independent liquor stores provide better customer service, offer a larger and better selection, keep their money in our community and donate more to local charitable causes. It all sounds like a win-win, right?
That’s why we support the Keep Colorado Local campaign. Keep Colorado Local opposes changes to Colorado’s current liquor laws that would allow out of state corporations to sell full strength alcohol. The corporations want us to think this issue is about choice, but in reality, it’s about boosting their profits. As a business owner, I understand and respect the need for profit, but when you look at where those profits are going to go, you realize that it’s not going to benefit Coloradans, just shareholders.
To bring awareness to the issue, we have brewed the Keep Colorado LocALE recipe, which was designed by Tim Evon at Dry Dock Brewing Company in Aurora, CO. Tim wrote this recipe and with a collaborative spirit, shared it with the entire industry, inviting them to brew it on their own system with all Colorado grown ingredients as a sign of solidarity. To give our own unique twist on the recipe, we brewed our version with Colorado grown wet hops. As I discussed in the post for Fresh Nugz, wet hops impart a different flavor than traditional dried hops, and since harvest only comes once a year, these are special, small batches that are more expensive and time consuming to create. However, if you’re a beer nerd, like me, you love to opportunity to explore and discover these different nuances in flavor.
Tim wrote the recipe for this Pale Ale with small amount of Chinook hops and a large amount of Cascade at the end, and the Cascades really come through. The balance of the pale is slightly toward the hops, with bright citrus, fruit and pine coming through. I almost get a lime zest like flavor on the back end. The grist, which consists of 4 Colorado grown malts, provides a bready sweetness on the back end. We used yeast from Dry Dock’s production facility for fermentation, and the English strain lends some fruitiness to the party. Overall, this beer comes in at 5.5% abv, with 40 IBUs and an SRM around 10. It provides a nice contrast to the Fresh Nugz Wet Hop IPA since the Fresh Nugz uses mostly Nugget hops instead of Cascade, so it’s really cool to taste them together and taste the differences between the hops.
Hopefully, I didn’t come across as too soap-boxy. My intention wasn’t to preach, but to bring attention to the issue. Maybe you don’t agree with me, which is fine, but hopefully I’ve made you aware of our position and helped educate a bit on the issue. I don’t believe the issue is as simple as “do you want to be able to buy craft beer at a grocery store?” If it was that simple, I’d be like, “Hell yeah I wanna buy some good craft beer the next time I go grocery shopping.” But I don’t think the issue is that simple, and we want to stand in solidarity with our friends that are small, local and independent liquor store owners who have given so many small breweries, like mine, a chance. Sometimes all you need is a chance, and Colorado has taken that chance and grown it into a thriving industry with a unique culture. If it’s not broke, let’s not try to fix it.
If you’d like to read Edgewater Echo’s article about the issue, where I’m interviewed, you can find it here: https://edgewaterecho.com/keep-colorado-locale-coming-to-joyride/
If you’d like to learn more about the Keep Colorado Local campaign, visit: keepcolocal.com
If you’re interested in brewing the Keep Colorado LocALE, here’s Tim’s recipe:
SG: 13.5 P FG: 1.8 P IBU: 38
Grist as % of total:
Colorado Pale 2-Row – 50 %
Colorado Belgian Pale – 35 % (this is a stewed base malt, I assume comparable to vienna)
Colorado White Wheat – 10 %
Crystal 20 – 5 %
Liquor to Grist: 2.5 L/kg
Mash in: 154 F
Rest: 30 min (conversion continues on our system during vorlauf and collection until sparge)
Mash pH: 5.3
Hop bill as % of total IBU:
Chinook (13.9 %AA) – FW – 40 % of total IBU assuming 24% utilization
Cascade (7.1 %AA) – 15 min – 45 % of total IBU assuming 22% utilization
Cascade (7.1 %AA) – 0 min – 15 % of total IBU assuming 7% utilization
Cascade (7.1 %AA) – DRY – Same as 0 min addition
Boil: 90 min
*For our system I employ a 20 min rest after end of boil.
BSI 2, White Labs 002, Wyeast 1968
Pitch at 1 million cells/ml/P and ferment at 68 F