Gov. Hickenlooper speaks at ‘Liquid Arts’ event, visits new CSU teaching brewery

Gov. John Hickenlooper on tour with Jeff Callaway

Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, toasts to the new CSU teaching brewery with Jeff Callaway, associate director of the Fermentation Science and Technology program.

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Colorado State University’s new teaching brewery on May 18 after speaking at a special event co-sponsored by CSU, the Liquid Arts Field to Foam Forum.

Hickenlooper, who co-founded Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, was in Fort Collins to serve as keynote speaker for the event. The day-long forum, held at the Lincoln Center, connected CSU faculty and staff with their industry counterparts in the beer supply chain to help ignite research collaborations and public-private partnerships.

Gov. John Hickenlooper
Courtesy of Evan Semón Photography

During his speech, Hickenlooper spoke about his own experience co-founding the state’s first brewpub in 1988. He recalled that as he experimented with home brewing in the 1970s, his favorite beer was called “Hickenlooper Lager.”

“If you couldn’t say it, we wouldn’t serve you another,” he joked.

At the time Wynkoop opened, Hickenlooper said, there were only a handful of brewpubs in the country, and it was difficult to find investors for the new business.

“My own mother wouldn’t invest,” he said. “She told me, ‘Who’d want to eat in a brewery?’”

25-cent beers

On opening day, Wynkoop made local headlines and newscasts by selling plastic cups of its beer for 25 cents each. Hickenlooper recalls the lines of customers being so long that he had to run out and visit multiple stores to buy more plastic cups.

“All I kept saying to myself was, ‘Why didn’t we charge 50 cents?’” he recalled with a laugh.

During Wynkoop’s first lunch rush, the restaurant’s point of service system that relayed orders to the kitchen broke, so the owners bought 38 customers’ lunches. But Hickenlooper said those people then became loyal return customers.

“Never underestimate a genuine act of kindness,” he said, adding that he’d regularly ask his regulars for advice on how Wynkoop could be improved. “You’ll never have a better marketing team than your regular customers.”

Hickenlooper said the defining characteristic of the brewing industry in Colorado, then and now, was “the comradery, integrity and respect the breweries had with each other.” He added that when he was criticized for advertising for his competitors around the first “LoDo Brewers Festival” in 1990, his response was that Wynkoop “could create a rising tide that would benefit everybody.”

Inclusive approach

He lauded the approach that CSU took with its new teaching brewery, ensuring that breweries both big and small are involved and included. “It lets you be the neutral territory where even the smallest breweries can have access to excellence. CSU has a reputation and history of access, originally serving as a place where people from the most humble farm or ranch could come and access skills.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Hickenlooper signed HB 18-1096, which expands the ability of local governmental entities to apply for special event permits to sell alcoholic beverages.

Gov. John Hickenlooper with audience

Courtesy of Evan Semón Photography

During his visit to CSU’s brewery in the Ramskeller at the Lory Student Center, Hickenlooper got a tour of the equipment from Jeff Callaway, associate director of the Fermentation Science and Technology program.

Before the two had lunch together, Callaway invited Hickenlooper to sample some of the local brews on tap at the Ramskeller.

The governor chose tasters of New Belgium’s Old Aggie Superior Lager and the student-brewed Oat of This World, a toasted oatmeal stout.

The Fermentation Science and Technology program is in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.