"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Beer Gets Beastlier at Brew at the Zoo

I have a three-year-old niece.  I have a girlfriend that teaches middle school life science.  I have a friend employed by the Denver Zoo.  Add it up and it equals me being at the zoo a lot.  Not just the Denver Zoo, either; I’ve been to zoos all over: San Diego, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and even Sydney. I’m a zoo advocate.  They rehabilitate injured and orphaned animals.  They're leaders in conservation efforts.  Most importantly, though, they bring the wildlife experience to city kids.  How do we expect the sons and daughters of urbanites to give two figs about the rainforest when the only tree they’ve seen was growing out of a sidewalk?  Why should they care about the polar bears going extinct when they only know of them through Animal Planet?  Kids need zoos to foster a connection between themselves and the great, wild world beyond.  We don’t need any more apathetic slack-jaws letting our planet go to hell; we got plenty of those already.  Some may derisively call zoos “animal prisons” but they’re blind to the whole picture—your bleeding-heart is misplaced, Mr. Granola, and would be put to better use elsewhere. 

I, for one, support my local zoo especially when support means drinking craft beer and that’s just what eco-conscious beer geeks had the opportunity to do during last Friday’s 15th annual Brew at the Zoo.  Proceeds from the event helped finance The Red Apple Scholarship Fund which allows people of diverse economic backgrounds the chance to interact with animals through educational programs.

Having attended the 14th annual Brew at the Zoo, Nicole and I had an idea of what to expect.  Nonetheless, there were a number of changes since last year.  For example, the Toyota Elephant Passage was but a pile of construction material in 2011; this year, it was open for exploration thus granting us the opportunity to see the eponymous pachyderms, the fishing cat engaged in its namesake activity, the elusive clouded leopard (so elusive, in fact, that a zookeeper said that he’s only seen them twice), and one of my favorite animals: fruit bats!  I’ve loved fruit bats for a while but my admiration for them was cemented last year when I saw wild ones in Cairns, Australia.
At the Toyota Elephant Passage
Get a good look of the clouded leopard now; it's the only time you'll ever see it
For those too lazy to go to the animals, roaming zookeepers with carry-on sized, non-lethal zoo denizens brought the animals to them.  Nicole and I met Short Stack, a pancake tortoise, an owl, and, for some reason, an opossum.  Did the zoo run out of animals?  Did the boss say, "We need another animal!  Quick, somebody go outside and grab the first thing you see!"  What's next?  A squirrel?  Jokes aside, all animals deserve to be protected, even nasty-looking marsupials. 

Ecologists say an ecosystem without diversity is weak and subject to cataclysmic extinction.  The same can be said about beer festivals that lack variation.  Thankfully, Brew at the Zoo boasts great brewery diversity, even more so than last year.  Less-than-a-year-old breweries like Big Choice Brewing, Lone Tree Brewing Company, River North Brewery, and Vine Street Pub & Brewery were present alongside veterans like New Belgium Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, Odell Brewing Company, Left Hand Brewing Co., and corporate giants MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch.  A healthy selection makes a beer festival and with 31 breweries, two cider houses, and 15 restaurant booths there was a metaphorical herd for which the predatory beer geek to prey upon.
As with any beer festival, details get lost in the mix: too much noise, too many breweries, too much beer in the system.  There were a few standout memories, though. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have a friend who works at the zoo.  That friend has a coworker who makes hats out of six-pack carriers.  My well-honed skill is making duct tape wallets so, half a year ago, we traded one Colorado flag wallet for one Left Hand Fade to Black hat which I wore to Brew at the Zoo.  While waiting in line for Milk Stout, I nonchalantly stuck my head in close to the pourers until they noticed what it was perched atop my head.  They seemed to get a kick out of it.

Copper Kettle Brewing Company’s Mexican Chocolate Stout is quite possibly the yummiest stout I’ve ever had but I’d only enjoyed it once, months back, so I lined up to get some more.  But, in this case, the beer’s not the story; the story centers on a nearby occurrence.  Two amorous Bactrian camels with libidinous urges brought out juvenile sex puns in the most mature guests.  Five humps: four of them nouns, one of them a verb.
Always a party at the CAUTION tent
CAUTION: Brewing Company’s headbrewer Danny Wang may not be a close, personal friend but we do recognize each other when we’re in the same vicinity.  For that reason, I was designated liaison when my friend wished to express her love for Lao Wang Noodle House, the elder Wangs’ restaurant.  I expressed my love for his beer so I got the last or second-to-last pour of CAUTION beer before they tapped out for the night

Remember Jared Pakele of Paramount Café that hooked me up with some awesome pre-Great American Beer Festival events last year?  I saw him last Friday, as well.  He told me this year’s events are going to be bigger and more numerous so, hopefully, I’ll be able to check a few of them out.

Although I didn’t participate (too busy drinking beer), other attendees seemed to be having a great time with giant Jenga, the silent disco, and live music.

Critics bemoan contemporary society for selfishness, for not caring about global crises, for having “first world problems.”  I think people care plenty about the status of the world, they just offer support through unconventional means—like drinking beer.  I can’t even pretend to know how much money was raised that night for the Red Apple Fund but, with the zoo selling-out tickets at $70 a pop, one imagines it was a hefty sum.  And it didn’t happen as a result of a black-tie gala, it came from shorts, t-shirts, local suds, and feral beasts.  Have a worthy cause that’s struggling for funds?  Have you tried beer?  It always brings people together and nobody bats an eye at donating $70 to charity when they’re rewarded with a rollicking good time and all the craft beer they can drink.



Drink a lot of beer and hang out with monkeys and this is liable to happen

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