Featuring Photography by Peter Strobridge
Colorado Craft Beer Week fell on March 21-28 this year. The celebration is just another one of the countless week long celebrations of craft beer where special tappings, releases and general Yippie-kye-aye type shit runs rampant across the city/state/nation the aforementioned holiday applies to. Ninkasi Brewing Company, by contrast, is not a holiday but makes some amazing beers (and great videos, like this spoof on the infamous Budweiser Super Bowl ad) out of their Eugene, Oregon brewery.
By a strange coincidence, I drank almost zero Colorado-made beers that week. I reflected on this irony as I left a free concert held by Ninkasi on the Thursday of CCBW. I was carrying four boxes of empty beer bottles from their event, and waiting on one more box being carried by a friend. It was one of those rare, proud moments where you were sitting on top of the world while everyone around you wondered why you were taking out the trash. Homebrewer problems.
Now, it wasn’t my intention to blow off Colorado beer all week. It just so happened that Ninkasi was moving into the Colorado market that month, and decided to make a big marketing push in the Denver area with a physical presence. And by God, they made a great presence in my opinion. They started by renting a house in a nice Denver neighborhood and setting that up as their base of operations.
They had a nice little open house for people to come by and have a beer or two, have some food and meet the Ninkasi team. The house was the shit. The owner was clearly a huge Star Wars fan, and had awesome memorabilia all throughout the place. It was just a cool, modern looking house that might have been a warehouse or something at some point. The ceilings were high, the walls looked like concrete and there was a loft up above the main living area for a bed, second bathroom and a closet (All house photos were shot by my good friend Peter, who dwells in San Francisco and helps me keep it weird from time to time).
Upon entering the home, we were warmly greeted by several of the staff members and offered a beer after some introductions. To quote Sterling Archer, “A rainbow should shoot out every time you open it” regarding their fridge. It was stocked full of glorious Ninkasi bottles. It was a beer bachelor’s wet dream.
#ninkasibrewing #colorado A photo posted by strobi (@strobi) on
I started with an Otis, since that was the only one I hadn’t tried yet. We chatted with everyone and learned some awesome tidbits about Ninkasi. They are about as DIY as you can get. They gave us some bottle openers that they hand machines at their own shop. They support local musicians and actually built an in house studio to have artists record an EP to commemorate the release of their new India Red Ale, Dawn of the Red. I even met Billy, the person behind shooting and editing the Budweiser spoof ad (as luck would have it, he was the guy who poured a Bud on his head, which was hands down my favorite part).
The house was just for a few hours on Sunday. CCBW was just getting started so I began to switch gears for all the things going on that week. However, Monday, I was a wreck. I didn’t leave the apartment. Tuesday I went to the District to dominate some Mind the Mic Trivia. I polished off about 7 PBRs and again managed to somehow avoid a Colorado craft beer. Wednesday would finally be the day to break that spell.
Ninkasi was having a tap takeover at Spruce Tap House, which happened to be next door to my old failsafe River North Brewery. So we stopped in for a little Wayward Wednesday action, and finally earning my CCBW badge on Untappt. Because you know, badges, dude. The Spruce was a pretty cool spot with some good stuff on tap, including some Ninkasi beer that’s not the regular suspects. Even though I’d end up regretting it the next day, the monster chili dog I ordered was fantastic. Everyone we talked to kept encouraging us to go to their final hurrah, a party in Wash Park featuring Sapient, a rapper from their hometown of Eugene and one of the artists featured on their Dawn of the Red EP. I fully intended to go.
Then I woke up on the futon. My phone was shouting at me from the coffee table via the alarm, and the battery was nearly dead. Upon leaving, we decided to make a quick stop at a different bar hosting Mind the Mic Trivia, and the night kind of took on its own personality after that. Long story short, I was in no shape to do anything today. Unfortunately, I had big boy responsibilities so I went to work. Got myself through the day and was getting ready to plan on a relaxing evening at home. Then, I got a text from Trivia Steven asking what the deal was with the Sapient show. I couldn’t back out. Not now. I’d come this far already, CCBW wasn’t for quitters!
So we make our way down to the location given on the tickets we received. True to the rest of the week, Ninkasi didn’t go skimpy on the details for this event either. We had our own tickets which were really just custom made flyers made to look like tickets from the company “Drinketfaster.” How fucking cool. The parking Buddha was kind to us, and we got a spot right next to the building. Upon walking in, we were greeted by a swarm of people mingling, several large tables adorned with hors devours and a bar tended by the find Ninkasi folks. They had mostly bottles, but there were a few taps with jockey boxes there as well.
The space was a wide-open reception hall style place with a massive dance floor, a nice little sitting area and, in my humble opinion, the crown jewel: a basement area with a full size shuffle puck board. We grab some beers and make for the basement to show our lack of prowess in shuffle puck. Finally, after dragging a game out far longer than it needed to be, we heard some music coming from the upper level and made our way back up to Sapient starting his set.
It was in this moment I realized I needed a new camera. Bad. I took so many cool shots that looked like shit but I pushed on and posted them anyway like the consummate unprofessional that I am.
— sam (@BeernLoathing) March 27, 2015
By the end of the event, I was noticing stacks upon stacks of boxes filled with empty beer bottles. As a homebrewer, it’s always a joy to drink beer so you can use those bottles later on your own batches, but if you can stumble upon a mass grave in process of them, that’s a bargain you shouldn’t pass up. And so we’ve come full circle. I’m walking out to my truck with 96 bottles in my arms and a shit-eating grin on my face, thinking back how I had one Colorado beer this whole week and now the icing on the cake for me is having to clean 120 bottles over the weekend. Like I said before, homebrewer problems.