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Drink with Colorado’s beer legends for Brewers Guild’s 25th anniversary party

The guild also teamed up with Left Hand Brewing for Colorado Strong Fund

Eric Wallace, co-founder and CEO of Left Hand Brewing Company, will be featured on a Zoom happy hour event Saturday for Colorado Brewers Guild.
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Remember the days of lounging in a taproom, enjoying a fresh craft beer while soaking in the community?

Those were the days. Along with beer lovers, local brewers and guilds are feeling the harsh effects of COVID-19. Like many businesses, the light at the end of the temporary closure tunnel is dim; there are no reopening dates on the horizon.

“We’re battered, but not beaten,” said Eric Wallace, co-founder and president of Left Hand Brewing in Longmont. Wallace said he thinks brew pubs will reopen when restaurants are given the green light, but taprooms? “We’ll have a harder argument to win. We’re going to be some of the last businesses to reopen, realistically speaking. I’m mentally prepared for this and I’m trying to prepare my team for the long haul.”

Yet while gazing at an empty taproom for more than a month, Wallace still found the drive to support his local community by raising nearly $20,000 to support those in need. And on Wednesday, Left Hand teamed up with the Colorado Brewers Guild to launch the Colorado Strong Fund, an initiative that will support breweries, suppliers and communities impacted by COVID-19.

But first, it’s time to talk shop over some local beers.

Crack open a cold, local beer and join in a Zoom happy hour with Colorado brewers.

Beer lovers can catch Wallace, a 27-year veteran brewer, alongside a slew of big-name brewers in the Colorado craft beer scene during the Colorado Brewers Guild’s 25th anniversary and “Beerthday” party from 1-6 p.m. Saturday.

On Zoom, of course. Because that’s how we do happy hour these days. Access info will be emailed after participants register.

Tristan Schmid, marketing and events manager for the guild, is the brains behind the bash. He wants participants to order up some independently brewed local beer for take-out or delivery, crack a fresh one and join in on the party that will feature dozens of professionals in the Colorado craft beer scene.

“We’re celebrating a sense of community,” Schmid said. “We can’t have that social aspect or be face-to-face at taprooms, so we decided to have a Zoom party. We want to bring to light wonderful things that craft brewing has brought to our state.”

The guild, a nonprofit trade association, has a mission to protect and propel Colorado breweries. The majority of the state’s more than 400 licensed breweries are members. Recently, the guild worked with Gov. Jared Polis to allow breweries to deliver and offer take-out craft beer during coronavirus shutdowns.

“We advocate with reps and the statehouse so brewers can enjoy the rights that they have,” Schmid said.

The Guild relies on annual events, like Pint Day and Collaboration Fest, to raise its money — and those events, of course, have been nixed for now. So Saturday’s “Beerthday” party will act as a fundraiser for the group. Participation costs $20 and there are “add-on party favor” options, like a custom-made beer coozie and T-shirt.

The colorful logo for the event was created by popular Indianapolis-based artist Mallory Hodgkin, aka Stabler or @stablercake. In a nod to ’90s culture, Hodgkin created a bold and colorful ram that dons a grunge-era flannel and is coiffed with a thick forehead curl (inspired by 90s-era wrestler Scott Hall, Hodgkin said) peeking through a backwards ball cap. The guild was born in 1995, after all, so Schmid said he wanted to run with the ’90s-style theme.

“I get a lot of inspiration from tattoo art and street art,” Hodgkin said. Her bold and wildly expressive pieces are featured at conventions, her Etsy shop (stablercake), commissioned works and, most recently, on cloth face masks that were flying off the shelves. (“I’ve never had a product sell so fast,” she said.)

Hodgkin said she had no limits when creating the coozie for the guild, so she ran with it, and the masterpiece is a full-color creation. This was a welcome project for Hodgkin, who said most of her sales come from traveling to up to a dozen conventions a year.

“In the beginning it was hard,” Hodgkin said of the coronavirus shutdowns that canceled numerous conventions. “It bummed me out. But I finally got back on the horse this week and started to create more.”

Craving community

“Craft brewing has been at the forefront of many things — music and art,” Schmid said. “But it’s the community aspect that makes Colorado’s scene so special. We want to bring to light wonderful things that craft brewing has brought to our state.”

And that’s what Left Hand’s Wallace said he misses the most.

In sync with Left Hand’s charitable mission — the brewery has raised millions of dollars since the late 2000s — Wallace said they’ve raised nearly $20,000 to give gift certificates from local restaurants to those struggling during this pandemic.

“We’re pouring it all back into the community — helping bar and restaurant workers, musicians and artists,” Wallace said. “We’re a community center, we build community. We’re a social magnet. That’s what we do. Society is going to need our presence and our support. We’re trying to make this world a better place.”

Out of Left Hand’s giving spirit grew the Colorado Strong Fund, the joint initiative with Colorado Brewers Guild that will support Colorado craft breweries and suppliers.

The star of the campaign is the brand new Colorado Strong Pale Ale, a crisp, refreshing summer ale made with Colorado ingredients by Colorado brewers. Left Hand Brewing Foundation will share the recipe with state brewers who can create their version of the brew (they can use slight tweaks to match their brewing identity, Schmid said). Sponsors of the initiative made it possible to offer ingredients to brewers at no cost. The breweries can sell the batches via take-out or delivery and 20% of the profits will benefit the Colorado Strong Fund.

“Breweries will brew the beer without having to worry about sinking cash into ingredients, and suppliers will get much-needed checks to help keep their operations afloat,” Eric Kean, executive director of the Left Hand Brewing Foundation, said in a release. “It’s a win-win.”

Brewing kicks off May 1 and the ales could be available for purchase as soon as May 10, said Schmid. Visit coloradostrongbeer.org for more information.

Until then, crack open a local brew, fire up the screen and join in a happy hour with some of the state’s beer pros.

Wallace said he’ll be drinking a Sawtooth Ale, Left Hand’s very first beer, during Saturday’s event.

“It’s going to be fun,” Wallace said. “We’ll be looking back retrospectively. We’ll hear from people who were in elementary school (25 years ago) who are now operating breweries … The Guild is pivoting like every business is having to pivot right now. Guilds across the country are important for every state, they help protect our industry.”

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