It's the Christmas season, so the movie to watch is Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life. Haven't seen it? One of the greatest movies of all time, it examines the plight of George Bailey, a good-hearted everyman played by the great James Stewart. Faced with the collapse of his business, dreams and efforts to help his town, he attempts to take his life. But he's saved by a quirky guardian angel named Clarence, who shows George the hefty price his town and its residents would have paid if George got his wish of never being born.
In 2013, we celebrate our 25th year of brewing small-batch liquid art at Wynkoop. And it's got me thinking: What if Wynkoop Brewing Company had never been born?
Okay, our never being might not have saved local lives and the saving & loan company, or kept Denver's working class out of Potter's Field. But our pioneering brewpub has had some far-reaching impacts in the city and state, and it has influenced lives, careers, the state's brewing culture and the rebirth of our home turf.
For starters, the state's brewpub trade -- started by Wynkoop and a few others right behind us – would've been much slower to form. It would have been a few more years before Denver got its first microbrewery. Had our place never existed, Wynkoop Brewing would not have fermented the roster of beer heavies in Colorado and the US who learned their craft here at 18th & Wynkoop streets.
Of course, our founder's unique journey from brewery owner to Denver mayor and Colorado governor would've never happened. What else might not have taken place if Wynkoop Brewing had never been born? We've asked a few of the city's brewers and shakers to step into their own Clarence mode and fill in the blanks.
Dick Kreck, Mr. Beer for the Denver Post and longtime chronicler of Denver's culture and beer scene: "LoDo wouldn't be LoDo and Coors Field might have been somewhere else. Russ Schehrer (Wynkoop original brewer) might still be alive. We'd still be drinking Coors and Bud Light and Hickenlooper would still be trying to find a job in geology. The "beer revolution" might have taken another 10 years."
Brian Dunn, Great Divide Brewing Company founder: "The Wynkoop definitely fueled my passion for beer and brewing, and it was the nucleus for the Denver craft beer scene. I was a regular patron in the Wynkoop's first couple of years and eventually met Russ Schehrer. I was enthralled with the brewing process and the variety of styles brewed right there. So I started home brewing around 1990 or 1991 and Russ was kind enough to speak a number of times to the home brew club (The Unfermentables) that I belonged to. And he allowed us to have gatherings at the Wynkoop. More than anything, the Wynkoop allowed me to learn as much as I could absorb."
Lew Cady, Beerdrinker of the Year creator and promo man/genius for Wynkoop's early days: "LoDo would never have happened. It would still be NoDough. And Coors Field would be located elsewhere. There would be no Beerdrinker of the Year this year or any year."
John Carlson, Executive Director of the Colorado Brewers Guild: "Durango would be the clear first site for a brewpub in Colorado. The laws giving rise to the craft beer revolution in the state might look a lot different and might not be as effective as they are today. Lower downtown would not have been reborn."
Todd Usry, Brewmaster for Breckenridge Brewery, Denver, CO: "When I moved to Colorado back in 1989 it was for one primary purpose, to ski. In the spring of 1990 I ventured down the hill to Denver and ended up paying a visit to the Koop. I met Russell while having a beer and my life was forever changed. I started thinking and dreaming of making craft beer for a living. One thing led to the next and the rest is 22 years worth of history for me with the Breckenridge Brewery. I owe a great deal of thanks to Wynkoop and Russell."
Tom "Dr. Colorado" Noel, Prof. of History & Liquid History, CU-Denver: "Colorado would be a desert with only a few stale, huge corporate beers to relieve the monotony. Because State Senator Dennis Gallagher got the law changed to allow consumption on brewing premises, the Wynkoop opened it doors -- and taps – in 1988. Since then some 150 brewpubs and craft breweries have made our state beer heaven and the highest beer producer in America."
Cody Christman, 2009 Beerdrinker of the Year – "Colorado may not know what cask beer is and we wouldn't have Patty's Chile Beer. And there would be no Beerdrinker of the Year or free Wynkoop beer for life for me."
Want to weigh in on the subject? Go to our Facebook page and testify. Or send a note to me and we'll post the best observations here on the beer blog.