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Yogis flow at Great Divide's Barrel Bar as part of the Hoppy Yogis series.

The Story Behind the Original “Beer Yoga” in Denver

How Shannon Berner helped start the movement of yoga classes held at breweries.

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At a time when hipsterdom reigns over the Mile High City (see our tongue-and-cheek “The Hipsterfication of Denver” feature), it’s not surprising that our once-soothing Vinyasa classes have transformed into goat and beer yoga. (In the former, goats literally wind their way around the yoga mats while you’re doing downward dog; the latter invites you to take sips of your craft brew throughout your practice.) These bizarre variations make the original indie pairing of yoga and post-Savasana beer seem quaint, especially now that so many local breweries offer the hybrid.

Just five years ago, though, Shannon Berner had trouble finding a time when her yoga and beer worlds overlapped. “I was finding that frustrating in terms of how I spent my time,” says Berner, who served as the marketing and communications manager for Wynkoop Brewing Company at the time. “I didn’t like having such clear divisions in these passions of mine.”

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Inspired by a trip to Wanderlust—the famous traveling festival where yogis flow during the day and drink at night—Berner was convinced there was a mainstream market for the combination. Along with two friends, she took over Wynkoop’s space on Monday nights, offering a yoga class coupled with a private brewery tour for anyone who was interested. When she got a new job as the marketing manager at Great Divide Brewing Company in July of 2014, there wasn’t enough space in the tiny Ballpark taproom to spread out—so the classes moved to local parks, with five to 10 people casually drinking beer afterward. Fortunately, Great Divide opened its barrel bar in RiNo a year later, around the same time that CorePower Yoga was opening a new location nearby. Hoppy Yogis was born.

Now, 150 to 200 people show up each month for the freeyoga class and pop-up bar in Great Divide’s industrial production space. “Flash back five years, and there were a lot more people who felt like yoga was incredibly niche-y; you had to be a certain kind of person, who was probably vegan and never drank, to do it,” Berner says. “Now we feel like there’s more room for yoga in a mindfulness space, and it’s a way for you to be healthy without having it be an extreme lifestyle.”

“It’s also efficient,” she continues. “It sounds silly but especially in Colorado, we’re so interested in doing a million things that it’s helpful to be able to catch up with friends, get some exercise, and relax all at once. It’s like having a beer after a hike.”

Next month, Great Divide will multi-task even more, when it hosts its Hoppy Yogis program during the Great American Beer Festival for the first time (October 4). Berner expects more people and a greater variety of brews. See you there.

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