In a state that’s home to more than 150 microbreweries, we spend a considerable amount of time obsessing over what’s in a bottle of beer rather than what’s on it (especially this month, when 49,000 people descend on the Colorado Convention Center for the Great American Beer Festival). But in many ways, Colorado beer labels can teach you as much about the brew—and the folks behind it—as what’s inside. Allow us to demonstrate.

Hover over the image to find out what has changed over the years.


Great Divide Brewing Company
Year founded: 1994
What’s known today as Yeti actually debuted as Maverick Imperial Stout in 2003. (The 9.5 percent ABV brew was rechristened a year later.) Owner Brian Dunn chose the name because he thought the hulking, mysterious Yeti fit perfectly with the stout’s big, burly taste.
Label-ology: The Yeti logo, crafted by the Denver advertising and design firm Cultivator, has inspired a cultlike following as beer-lovers across the world send the brewery photos of Yeti-sticker sightings (snag one for free from the taproom’s windowsill). Exclusive: Read our interview with founder Brian Dunn here.

Odell Brewing Company
Year founded: 1989
Since 1994, Odell Brewing Company has shipped off its spent grains (a byproduct of the brewing process) to a local dairy farmer named Lugene Sas, who feeds the grain to his 70-or-so cattle.
Label-ology: When Odell recently brewed a new chocolate milk stout in 2012, the company named the beer after the brewery’s favorite farmer. In fact, the cow pictured on the beer bottle was inspired by a close-up shot of one of Lugene Sas’ cattle.

New Belgium Brewing
Year founded: 1991
In 1989, New Belgium co-founder Jeff Lebesch rode an old mountain bike across Europe. In Belgium, he chatted with the owner of a famous beer bar about the intricacies of Belgian brews, which prompted Lebesch (who has since left the company) to return home and plan what became New Belgium Brewery.
Label-ology: The label’s iconic red bike was painted by watercolor artist Ann Fitch—a former neighbor of New Belgium’s co-founders—to resemble the bike Lebesch rode on his European trip.

Avery Brewing Company
Year founded: 1993
Released in 1994, Ellie’s Brown Ale remains the only beer from Avery Brewing’s original lineup still in production.
Label-ology: The beer was originally named after owner Adam Avery’s chocolate lab, Elle, who died in 2002. (That’s her in the picture on the bottle.) Not long after the beer was released, the brewery received a cease-and-desist letter from a certain fashion magazine with the same name, but instead of fighting it, Avery added an “i” to the name and called the brew Ellie’s.


Name Game

Colorado’s craft beer boom produces a steady flow of good news, but the thriving industry comes with a downside: naming rights. Last year, Renegade Brewing received a letter from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn contending that Renegade’s Ryetous Rye IPA tiptoed too closely to its Righteous Ale. (Renegade cheekily changed the name to Redacted Rye IPA.) And Denver’s Strange Brewing Company has been battling with a homebrew shop called Strange Brew for more than a year. With so many breweries around, coming up with an original moniker isn’t easy. We figured we’d help by suggesting a few never-been-used* names for Colorado brews.
• Peyton’s Porter
• Dry Bag Dunkel
• Helmet Required Hefeweizen
• TABOR Tripel
• What the Frack Lager
• Self-Arrest Saison
• PERA Pilsner
• Bail Money Brown Ale
• Mineral Ryetes
• Platte and Happy Pilsner
• 300 Days IPA
*At least according to our research department’s extensive Googling.