More than 900 miles away from their source, Texas beers tend to make a big splash at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival no matter how many medals they win. (This year, they really went for the gold.)
That’s in large part thanks to the Beerliner, the bright red refurbished bus with a handful of beer taps and a mission that goes far beyond introducing outsiders to Texas’ talent with hops, malts and yeast. The Beerliner, captained by Tony Drewry — who you’ll know in the live music scene as well, as a member of the “beergrass” band Shotgun Friday — made its fifth trip to Colorado this year for GABF.
As with past GABF sojourns, the Beerliner moseyed its way through multiple states a couple of weeks beforehand, accompanied by a group of bicycle riders, to spread the message that Drewry teamed up with 1400 Miles founder and North by Northwest owner Davis Tucker to deliver.
Tucker is passionate about spreading awareness of the danger of prostate cancer, a leading cause of cancer death for American men. And what better way to get them educated about the issue than with a beer in hand? He came up with the idea of traveling to GABF by bike and bus to both raise money for 1400 Miles, his nonprofit focused on the issue, and to encourage men to get tested for prostate cancer (because let’s be honest, it’s not always so easy to get a guy into the doctor’s office).
Tucker’s 1400 Miles trips have always been fruitful, but last week’s fifth time to GABF has been the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser to date, Drewry said in a recent email. Although total funds haven’t been fully calculated yet, there’s a strong chance the 2015 event raised more money than ever because of a couple things the Beerliner crew decided to do differently during the festival.
One big change was that the Beerliner was parked directly across the street from the Colorado Convention Center, where the festival is held, giving the big bus easy exposure to thirsty passersby. (It’s been in front of the beer-centric spots Falling Rock Tap House and Wynkoop Brewing in the past.)
“Our location… was actually more amazing than most people realized,” Drewry said. “Being a fairly new nonprofit from another state, it wasn’t easy to get such a prime piece of real estate during the festival. Being so close, we got lots of people stopping by who were curious about The Beerliner, which always gives us an intro to talk about why we drive it around.”
Plus, beer lovers stopping by to partake in the beer-guzzling joy of the Beerliner crew had to donate a minimum amount of $5 to also enjoy a pint or three of Texas beer — unlike in past years, when the Beerliner had a jar for “suggested” donations.
Although donations were mandatory this year, Drewry said no one minded forking over a few bucks for a good cause and good beer in return. Both veteran Beerliner attendees and newcomers alike couldn’t get enough of the Texas beer lineup, which included a mix of brewery staples and rarer offerings.
Some of the most popular this year, he said, were Hops & Grain’s The One They Call Zoe, the Collective Brewing Project’s Oaked Mustache Rye’d Porter, Twisted X’s Tex Mex Lager, Martin House’s Bockslider, Community Beer’s Razzy Raspberry Wit and NXNW’s Porchtime Pilsner.
A keg of Real Ale’s Hans Pils might have been the top choice this year — it “was gone in 20 minutes,” Drewry said.
Friday saw perhaps the most fun — and certainly the biggest crowd. That’s when the Beerliner pulled out its stash of canned beers, from Texas and across the country, for the second annual World’s Largest #ShotgunFriday.
Nearly 400 people at last year’s inaugural shotgun crammed together to gulp down their respective beers; this year’s gathering, with 55 different canned beers to choose from, was even bigger.
“This year we estimated over 600 (people),” Drewry said. “At $5 a head, we successfully raised over $3,000 in less than 30 seconds.”
Although that may well have been the largest shotgun ever, no one at the Beerliner sought to get that record official, and Drewry has a ready answer for why: “It’s not about winning; it’s about being awesome.”
If you missed it, don’t worry – Drewry and the Beerliner plan to be at the same location next year.
“We’re already planning for next year’s events in that same spot, hoping to be bigger and better than ever,” he said.