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Started in a goat shed, Colorado’s first craft brewery now boasts a brand-new menu with brews and food for every palate

By Haley Gray | Photos by Phil Mumford

Boulder Beer Co. has quenched the thirst of underserved beer lovers since its humble beginnings in 1979 as Colorado’s first craft brewery.

Boulder Beer’s iconic brewery has been
on Wilderness Place since 1984. (photo by Phil Mumford)

In the beginning, the company’s founders were actually serving themselves. A couple of enthusiastic astrophysics professors at CU, Randolph “Stick” Ware and David Hummer, had a passion for the flavorful beers that, at the time, they found only in their travels around Europe. Before 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed a law that lifted Prohibition-era regulations on craft brewers, little more could be found in the United States than light pilsners and lagers—the kind of beer Michelob and Coors brewed in abundance. But in beer halls across the pond, Ware and Hummer found complex brews that were rich in flavor, depth and body.

They wanted to drink pale ales and porters at home, so they started brewing their own in a repurposed goat shed in Hygiene, just north of Boulder. Boldly going where no Colorado brewer had gone before, they opened a small microbrewery there. Word got out that if you wanted a beer with hops and/or malt, the goat shed was the place to go.

The former reception area is now an open, airy dining room. (photo by Phil Mumford)

By 1984, the partners were ready to grow and they moved into their current location at 2880 Wilderness Place, off Valmont Road west of Foothills Parkway. At the time, what is now the dining room was nothing more than a space to pour beers for potential retail carriers.

“It was really built as a reception area,” says company president Jeffrey Brown. “[Ware and Hummer] would bring retailers in to try the beers and tour the brewery, to convince retailers to carry these beers, even though there wasn’t a big call for them. The beers are more expensive [to make] than your standard Coors or Budweiser beer. You really had to tell people why these beers were special. But by 1990, things really started to pick up.”
That’s the year new and current owner Gina Day took over the brewery. She made it a private company and added a food menu and an open, airy dining space for patrons.

New Treats Menu

Cajun-seared ahi tuna tops an arugula salad with almond slivers, goat cheese and fresh strawberries. (photo by Phil Mumford)

In addition to a fruity Pulp Fusion IPA or a hoppy Hazed session ale, drinkers can munch on a goat cheese, strawberry and arugula salad ($10) or a blackened and seared ahi sandwich ($13). For larger appetites, the pub offers a full rack of smoked ribs every Wednesday night ($20, with sides). Day also expanded the popular west-facing outdoor patio, so more people could enjoy the stunning Flatirons views from the dog-friendly courtyard.

The veteran brewery has plenty of company in the Boulder brew scene these days. As new brewpubs continue to sprout like dandelions across Boulder County, Boulder Beer is holding fast to its original mission: to provide stellar options where variety is scarce. While bottled Boulder Beer is sold in 30 states, the brewery produces only 26,000 barrels a year. By established craft-brewery standards, that’s a modest number, and Boulder Beer is the most established in the state and among the oldest in the country. But Brown is proud to say Boulder Beer’s No. 1 concern isn’t expansion, it’s deepening the company’s roots where they already are.

Smoked chicken wings tossed in a housemade Shake Chocolate Porter BBQ sauce. (photo by Phil Mumford)

In a city full of kitchen-less breweries or old-school pub fare, Brown is proud of the dishes the new menu affords Boulder beer drinkers—from burger lovers to vegetarians, vegans and gluten-averse. Thanks in large part to new chef Logan Wolff, the brewpub offers new treats to please all palates. Breaded-and-fried cauliflower ($7) gives vegetarians a classic-ish pub-food appetizer option, and the burgers, ranging from $8-$10, can be made with beef, bison, chicken or tempeh. For a fresh but filling meal, the fish tacos ($10) offer a hearty bite of protein with a bright pineapple pico and spicy chipotle aioli. Best of all, liquid options abound for beer lovers and whiskey drinkers and the full bar features specialty vodka, tequila, rum and liqueur cocktails as well.

The perfect Boulder Beer experience concludes with one of the microbrewery’s first brews: the porter. For adults 21 and over only, the Shake Chocolate Porter milk shake ($6) will please beer, coffee and chocolate lovers, with its dark chocolate, coffee and caramel flavors.

What better note to end a meal on than with Boulder Beer’s own World Beer Cup gold-medalist chocolate beer?

Boulder Beer (303-444-8448, call ext. 19 for the pub; www.boulderbeer.com) is located at 2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder 80301. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Brewery tours are at 2 p.m. daily, with an additional tour on Saturdays at 4 p.m. If you’re craving a freshly crafted brew at DIA, the Boulder Beer Tap House is located in the main terminal. Check out the new Walnut Street location that opens later this summer.