If you had told me two years ago that I’d find myself on a Friday night trying to decide between enjoying a brown ale or a nitro stout, I likely would have wrinkled my nose and taken a sip of the Magners Irish Cider I was nursing. Needless to say I’ve come a long way.
Having felt the nudge to leave the Greater New York City area in the late summer of 2014, Patrick and I packed up our things and our dog and drove until we arrived here to our new apartment in Boulder, a place we had visited for all of four hours on a long weekend vacation a few months before. Having been drawn to it then and feeling more and more excited about it as the Front Range came into closer and closer view, we were determined to make Boulder our new home. What we found was that this was a much easier and natural plight for us than we’d anticipated. We didn’t have to force it. Open doors welcoming us at every turn and corner inviting us to get integrated into the community are what we found almost immediately, and all we had to do was say yes and accept the invitation. Just as we found ourselves meeting new people and making new friends in the community, our immersion into and enjoyment of the Boulder craft beer scene has become just one tangible indicator and example of that welcoming nature.
We were drawn to Boulder because it reminded us of our favorite pieces of all the other cities we’d lived in together previously. It reminded us of San Diego in that on a sunny day (of which there are plenty), men, women, and families are out on their bikes, roller blades, or in their sneakers, and they’re all planning on indulging in a burger and fries (of the sweet potato variety if they’re being extra health-conscious) and a pint as a reward for their hard work. It reminded us of New York in people’s work ethic and the entrepreneurial businesses popping up everywhere, pushed forward by driven and creative people. There is a balance, though, and these extremely driven people also enjoy the spoils of their hard work, taking a ski Friday every now and again in the winter and going to happy hour with their employees when they’ve proven themselves throughout a long week and it’s deserved. Boulder feels like a community of its own, but you can still venture down into the “big city” of Denver to take advantage of their major sports teams (or to find a surprisingly large community of individuals of your own fandom allegiances….GO BILLS!) There is downtown Boulder, there is downtown Denver, and there are mountain retreats a short and scenic drive away. It’s a place where a lot of people have upped and moved, so there were many people who had been in our position before when we moved here and who were proud to show us why they love their city, proactive in their pursuit of new friends.
Breweries are intrinsically a part of that community here in Boulder, and they are really a microcosm of the city in a lot of ways. At the craft brewery level we felt welcome even when, truth be told, we were hugely intimidated by the first draft menu we saw at a local brewery, as we saw only styles and descriptors of beer, no brands or fallback options. But at a place like Avery Brewing Company or Walnut Brewery, all you have to do is either ask someone or read those descriptors with an open mind to find what you didn’t even know you were looking for. Don’t overthink it. What sounds delicious to you?
Caramel? I like caramel.
Coffee notes? I love coffee.
Chocolate aromas? I’m in.
Try whatever you want, whether it’s a taster or a full pint. The brewers want you to. They want to educate you and to get you to partake in and enjoy the creative beers that they’ve dreamed up and willed into fruition, as it truly is their art form. It brings a smile to my face when my little brother gets excited when I make a batch of chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies, and I can whip those up in twenty minutes. I can only imagine the satisfaction and fulfillment a brewer must feel when a whole taproom full of both locals and newbies go nuts over a new tapping that has taken their brewery weeks and more likely months to brew. Their beer is made to enjoy, not to fuss over, and it’s a simple thing that should be viewed and enjoyed that way.
I’ll always love a Bud Light while watching a football game, a Coors at the Pepsi Center, and a Labatt Blue Light at a tailgate (hey, everyone has to hydrate sometimes!) You can like both, the craft beer and the commercial. It’s perfectly fine. Craft beer is fun to learn about and an interesting and unifying venture that can get you even further ingrained into the Colorado community. You can learn your tastes and why you feel that way, and you can feel part of a community that encourages you to talk to people and have conversations. Many if not most of us spend our 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. staring at one screen or another and answering emails. Boulder’s breweries and taprooms are our collective living rooms as a community. Go in your jeans, your flannel, your vests, your beanies, or whatever, however, and whoever you are that day. Chat with you friends and families and neighbors, play cards or Scrabble with them, and clink glasses with and talk to them about whatever is on tap that night.
During Patrick’s first haircut after we had moved into our apartment here in Boulder, the woman cutting his hair told him, “Welcome to Colorado. I hope you’re ready to just be who you are.” Colorado and Boulder push you to be creative, to work hard, and to allow yourself to enjoy the spoils of it. Even when it might push you a little bit outside of your comfort zone, more often than not, you won’t regret it. Whether that means hiking a new trail a little steeper than you would have liked, surprising yourself by ordering a full pint of the darkest beer on the menu, or anything in between, you’ll be the better off for it and you’ll love Boulder all the more for it.