2012 has been a helluva year for Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. Local nerds will know Wynkoop as Colorado’s first brewpub, co-founded by now-governor John Hickenlooper, and a place that makes, until recently, okay beer that won’t excite nor disappoint.
At least, those were my feelings for much of 2010-2011. For a place boasting “Colorado’s First”, it was getting left behind stylistically by local and regional competitors. And yet, I found myself at Wynkoop maybe 5 or 6 times a year, because something cheeky was starting to creep onto their specialty board. Little by little (and then a lot by the start of 2012), you could rely on the ‘Koop to bring a little something special to your face-hole.
Much of this adventurous brewing has come from Andy Brown, Wynkoop head brewer since 2008 (note how Wynkoop’s RateBeer page has a 2008 Anniversary Barleywine…). Since then, his seasonals and specialty brews have brought some nerdy attention and, more importantly, more business. ”We know that is what a lot of the demand in our market is for now — to make more seasonals,” Brown told The Denver Post. “In the craft-beer world, so much is going on, and people expect newer, bigger and better.”
That brings us to 2012. All that seasonal and specialty goodness has brought spoils in the form of 2 new 20bbl fermenters–the first expansion made in 13 years. A scant eight months later, 2 more 20bbl fermenters were installed, bringing production capacity up 35%. Better still, a third canned beer was released (Wynkoop only had draft accounts until 2011, when 2 of their year-round flagships–an amber and a pale ale–were released in cans to the Denver-metro market) in the form of a two-time GABF medal winning schwarzbier.
And all this adventure and expansion has proven itself on the palate. Where once was a brewpub where you could introduce your timid girlfriend to a non-threatening ESB, Wynkoop is now a place where you can geek out to giant oak aged barleywines*, a hibiscus-infused hard cider aged in whiskey barrels*, imperial red ales*, a wet hopped Belgian pale ale with all-Colorado ingredients*, or a rich Framboise-Quad*. And along the way they’ve brewed special beers for special Denver people. There was a beer for a Denver-based booze website, a couple of beers for Denver’s local theme park, and a pre-prohobition lager for the 120th anniversary of Denver landmark hotel The Brown Palace. Not to mention the April-Fools joke-turned reality, the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout (yes.), which was crazy enough to get national media attention from The Today Show, Huffington Post, NYTimes, and Anderson Cooper.
So the best way to celebrate 24 years and expansion and press and craziness? A party involving a little bit of every beer brewed in the past year (actually, they’ve been doing that every year. 2012 just happened to be awesomer than other years). This Saturday, Nov. 3 from 1- 4 PM Wynkoop will host the annual Beers of the Year event. Attendees can sample every beer brewed this year and special cask, reserve and vintage Wynkoop beers. There are also new beers promised to make their debut, for a total of 50+ beers on hand.
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