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Coloradans haven’t always had the privilege of sipping on local milkshake IPAs or attending festivals dedicated to beer—even powerhouses have to start somewhere. For the Centennial State’s now-exceptional brewing industry, that start came during the Gold Rush with hops-free beer, the first thing visitors will learn about at History Colorado’s sudsy new exhibit, Beer Here! Brewing the New West, which opens on Saturday, May 18.
“I think beer is a good way to look into the past,” says Sam Bock, the exhibit’s lead developer. “We can really track Colorado’s cultural and economic changes through the evolution of its beer industry.” The interactive exhibit, which is divided into five sections, uses artifacts—like beer ads from yesteryear—to illuminate what living in Colorado was like as the state evolved into the brewing epicenter it is today. Subsequent sections span from Prohibition all the way to the recent craft beer boom.
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There is also be an entire section dedicated to Coors. “(It) has been a major player for pretty much our entire beer history,” says Bock. There, visitors will find a sketch of the very first Coors beer label, as well as some of the Colorado brand’s vintage ads. Visitors can also stop at the museum’s cafe after the exhibit for a rotating four-beer flight featuring a Coors Banquet brew.
Beer Here! hasn’t yet opened, but its subject matter is already a point of controversy. Critics like Patty Limerick, chair of the board for the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado Boulder, have denounced the museum’s choice of curating an entire exhibit around an alcoholic beverage. In a Denver Post op-ed, Limerick poses a valid question: Does the exhibit, which may be viewed by school children, address the more insidious implications of beer? Bock counters that Beer Here! neither ignores beer’s negative sides nor glorifies its consumption; the Prohibition section of the exhibit, for example, addresses addiction. “We’re not shying away from showing the negative effects of alcohol,” insists Bock. “It’s not a celebration of beer—it’s an investigation into Colorado’s past.”
If You Go: Beer Here! is included in the cost of general admission to History Colorado: $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for students, $8 for children ages 5-15, and free for children under 4. 1200 N Broadway