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Oral History: The Story Behind Wynkoop Brewing Company’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout

An April Fools' Day joke led to the creation of the iconic Colorado beer.

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In 2012, Marty Jones came up with a nutty idea. An employee at Wynkoop Brewing Company at the time, he and three other staffers decided to produce a commercial for a new beer that captured the essence of Colorado through a very Rocky Mountain–centric ingredient: bull testicles. The ad was meant as an April Fools’ prank, but some missed the joke. Only hours after the video was released, people began showing up at the LoDo brewpub to order the so-called Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. The accompanying hype convinced the Denver institution to actually concoct the beverage. To celebrate its eighth anniversary, we chatted with those who were there to discover how a spoof became a Centennial State staple.

Marty Jones, former publicist for Wynkoop Brewing: I was a guest on the Colorado Craft Beer Radio show, and one of the beers we sampled was an oyster stout from Odell Brewing Co. I’d had oyster stouts before, but I thought, This is kind of weird. It’s a Fort Collins brewery doing a beer with oysters in it. I got in the car and scribbled ideas on a notepad.

Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. Photo by Sarah Boyum

Gabriel Dohrn, former server at Wynkoop and the video’s director: Marty asked me, What do you think about doing a video for a Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout? Even the zaniest thing isn’t shocking coming from Marty Jones. It’s who he is. So I said, Uh…yeah!

Brad Landman, former brewer at Wynkoop and an actor in the commercial: Marty told me to come upstairs because he needed help. He gave me my lines, and I memorized them in 10 minutes.

Dohrn: We tried to be measured with the writing, so you could play it straight and the audience would think, Am I supposed to laugh at that?

Editors’ note: The two-minute ad, styled like a TV commercial, explained that the brew was made “with malt, hops, Rocky Mountain water, and bull testicles,” and featured testimonials from beer sippers (“the Wynkoop is stepping their game up; that takes a lot of balls”). Many national outlets, including the Washington Post and HuffPost, covered the prank.

Jones: The day I sent it out to the press, a couple of heavies in our trade said, Dude, can you send me some samples? I said, Well I’d like to, but it doesn’t exist. We also had people coming into the restaurant on April 1 to order the beer.

Tim Myers, owner of Strange Craft Beer Co.: I kind of had mixed reactions knowing that the video came out on April Fools’ Day. I thought, It’s got to be a joke. They wouldn’t really do that. Everybody took it so seriously. People were coming into my brewery asking if I’d tasted it.

Andy Brown, former head brewer at Wynkoop: Marty kept pushing for us to actually make [the beer], and eventually I came around to the idea and started researching. I talked to Castle Rock Meats, our meat purveyor, and they said, Yeah, we have cases of [bull testicles]. There are 25 in a case, which is kind of weird because that’s 12 and a half bulls.

Jones: We debuted it at the Great American Beer Festival. Everyone was saying, I want that bull testicle beer! One woman came up and said, I’m allergic to seafood; can I drink this? And I said, Yes, you can!

John Frank, craft beer writer at the Colorado Sun: Now, we’re in an industry where every beer is crazy. If you can imagine it as an ingredient, it gets thrown in. Back then, that wasn’t the case, which is why this stood out. I still don’t know of another beer that has such an eye-catching ingredient.

John Sims, current head brewer at Wynkoop: A few years ago, we started brewing some of the batches with buffalo testicles. It’s still our most requested sample. I do about five interviews a year internationally about that beer. It’s bigger than Wynkoop.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the April issue of 5280, which went to press before COVID-19 became the biggest story in recent memory. As such, some events and dates listed may now be out of date. For more on how 5280 is shifting coverage during this time, read Editorial Director Geoff Van Dyke’s editor’s note.

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