Beer Stories

How Beer Saved Denver – Denver Beer Tour

How the craft brewing industry has spearheaded economic and neighborhood revitalization in Denver


Black Shirt Brewing Denver
Black Shirt Brewing Company in the River North District in Denver

To imagine that Denver, a city that resides in the shadows of the massive Coors Brewing Company, the largest brewery west of the Mississippi— is one of the highest density craft brewing industries in the United States, makes a clear statement: craft brewing has no fear of the size and scale of macro breweries, and the increasing share they are taking from large breweries is an economic trend that seems to be accelerating.

More beer drinkers in downtown Denver enjoy a Black Shirt Red Amber Brew or a Crooked Stave Wild, Wild Bret Rouge than those who sit down to consume a Coors or Coors light.

Last year we wrote a story about how Salt Lake City’s Epic brewing— the fastest growing brewery in Utah— had decided to expand into Denver to build their regional hub rather than continue to expand in Salt Lake. Epic said they would build a facility in the Rino (River North) district in Denver, which was already home to over 25 craft breweries. But why locate in an area which has more competition than less? We will answer this question later in the story.

Denver Brewery Stats

There are 125 brew pubs in Denver, I decided I had to see for myself what a city might look like with such an abundance of free-flowing craft beer. While we were there, we thought we would make some comparisons of Salt Lake City to Denver.

Denver has an entire area that has been revitalized thanks to craft beer. The River North area in Denver was formerly warehouses, foundries and factories. It was the the industrial center of the city. Like many other cities as the manufacturing dried up, the buildings became abandoned and derelict. Now imagine if Denver’s RDA had bought up this ground and spearheaded the building of a new mall, like Deedee Corradini did in Salt Lake City with the Gateway. That mall would have likely been out of style and ready to tear down in just a few years. Instead, Denver chose to keep the abandoned red brick warehouses and offer them inexpensively to artists, brewers, and simply entrepreneurs who wanted space.

River North Brewery District

This started about ten years ago in the River North district and now the area is arguably the artistic and artisan capital of Denver. We learned from one brewer that the Rino district revitalization started with art studios. The high ceiling warehouses offered great opportunities for artists. Black Shirt Brewing was the first brewery to gamble on the seedy area. Soon after many more followed. And today just the five-block area is home to over twenty-five breweries.

Over the next 10 days want take Utahns on a beer tour of Denver. We visited over 25 breweries in Denver and a total of 30 in Colorado.  So visit Utah Stories in the coming days we will offer short profiles on the most interesting breweries and show you what we found.

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