Denver: The Napa Valley of Beer

The Great American Beer Fest, held in Denver since 1984, serves more than 36,500 gallons of beer to 49,000 attendees in three days.

But the city developed its mile-high thirst well before this annual celebration.  Prospectors quaffed local beer when Colorado was no more than a territory, and then raised their mugs to the state’s constitution, hammered out in a bar, in 1875. Legal beer production and consumption went underground in 1916, but re-emerged with Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Coors Brewery, established in 1873, survived the dry period by making malted milk, and then thrived on the reputation of its spring water. In the 1990s, the microbeer and brewpub phenomenon transformed Denver. Pioneered locally by the Wyncoop Brewery, craft beer making helped turn once-seedy neighborhoods into trendy historic districts. Today Denverites toast their town as the “Napa Valley of Beer.”

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