Photo: Denver Central Market

4 Ways Denver Is Leading the Nation in Craft Culture

by Tim Wenger Feb 2, 2017

WHEN THINKING about Bohemian lifestyle in Colorado, Boulder is and always has been top-of-mind. But I’m here to argue that it’s the capital city up the 36 turnpike that is actually doing the most to support individual expression through craft culture, and here’s why.

The distillery movement is spreading like wildfire.

Governor John Hickenlooper, famous for opening the legendary Wynkoop Brewing across from Denver’s Union Station (and a stop on the wildly popular Denver Microbrew Tour) signed into law HB15-1204 on April 15, 2016. This monumental ruling effectively created a Distillery Pub License. Similar to a standard brew pub license, the law outlines and enforces the previously confusing and inefficient process of opening a distillery pub. Even before this, though, Denver became a hotbed for craft spirit lovers, with places such as Declaration Brewing Company, Chain Reaction, and Fiction Beer Company. The DSTILLfestival serves as the city’s grand tasting, while many smaller events happen throughout the city and region each year and there are dozens of tasting rooms in the Denver area to whet your whistle, often in repurposed old warehouses.

The city’s second Food Hall just opened.

The Denver Central Market joins Avanti Food and Beverage as the city’s freshest Euro-inspired haven for foodies and craft drinkers. Meat counters, gourmet chefs, a greengrocer, and more. Down in RiNo, The Preservery has taken the food hall concept a bit further, adding live music and a marketplace vibe. These three spots represent a culinary revolution for a city that many in the food world, including personal hero Anthony Bourdain, don’t seem to give much thought to.

There are now numerous locations for First Friday and to celebrate the city’s artistically inclined.

The Arts District on Santa Fe popularized the monthly arts walk gathering, which has been replicated in the RiNo Arts District and the burgeoning 40 West Arts District evolving along West Colfax Ave through Lakewood. The movement is thriving. Denver, in fact, collects more money per capita to support the arts than any other city in the country.
But the heart still beats from Santa Fe Drive. Food trucks, free wine (if you look hard enough), thousands of people, and just about every type of art imaginable are available en masse on the first Friday of every month.

Levitt Pavilion is coming to town.

I’ve written about Denver’s music scene for Matador many times. This summer, this already thriving part of our city’s culture will get even better with the opening of Levitt Pavilion in Ruby Hill Park. Featuring 50 free concerts each year, the non-profit outdoor amphitheater will give a new voice (and stage) to the city and increase the national attention that the music culture here is demanding.

Residents are willing to open their wallet to keep these movements going.
Voters overwhelmingly supported a measure to continue important funding for arts and culture in the city this past November. I haven’t heard any opposition to Hickenlooper’s plans for this.

Denver brews more beer than any other city, so raise a glass and drink up to a city that is working hard to show off its personality (and because we need to make some space in the walk-in cooler).

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