Congratulations to Glen Van Aken on completing the quest to visit every currently open Colorado brewery! He has now earned the title of “Colorado Brewery Master,” joining a very small group of beer enthusiasts who have also accomplished this feat.
I was introduced to Glen by Paul Myhill (aka Colorado Beer Guy) who by chance ran into him during the final stages of the quest. We started chatting online and I quickly discovered that, along with his other accomplishments, he is a true beer geek at heart.
As I have done previously with the other Masters, I was happy to ask him some questions about his journey…
Who is Glen Van Aken? (Tell us a bit about yourself.)
I grew up in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I got transferred to AZ in 2002 and then to Colorado in 2012. My wife (Kerri) couldn’t have been happier than to get out of the desert. I like to travel and usually plan to see/do way too much on any trip. Besides breweries, I’m trying to go to every US National Park (just missing Lake Clark, AK), hike every 14er, try all the restaurants that have been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (nearing 300), visit every state capitol, summit every state high point [he needed a beer after inhaling too much oxygen at 450 feet in Delaware], and get to every MLB baseball stadium.
The beer part: 28 years ago, a co-worker and his friend wanted to invest in a brewery. Breweries were just starting to pop up and the novelty kept them packed, even when their product was sometimes lacking. The co-worker kept talking about doing some reconnaissance at the local breweries to see what they were doing right/wrong. After months of all talk and no action, I got tired of waiting, so I bought 20 six packs from local breweries and invited people over to see what was good. The party went over so well that Kerri & I continued doing them almost annually. Visiting the numerous local breweries to get beer for the party turned into an obsession of going to them all.
When and what was the first Colorado brewery that you remember visiting?
The first was New Belgium in 2007. Then in 2011 I made it to Strange and Golden City, which was the only microbrewery in Golden at the time. Loved their sign back then: “2nd largest brewery in Golden!”
When and where did you accomplish the status of having visited every Colorado brewery?
On Jan 7, 2022 I was driving out to Moab, UT. I stopped at Foam & Folly Brewing in Grand Junction. While waiting for them to open, I started talking with another person. It turned out to be Paul Myhill, the Colorado Beer Guy. After enjoying a flight there, we moved over to Gemini. He found out that I only had four unique breweries left to visit. He got my contact information and sent it to Stephen (Colorado Beer Geek).
I probably would have taken months to finish, but now that I was on the radar, I had to step it up. The following week, David Baraloto (co-worker, drinking partner) and I went out to Parts and Labor in Sterling. They had a great selection of beer, so we had to get two flights to try everything. While our flights were being poured, Paul Myhill walked into the brewery. From there we all moved on to Tumbleweed in Yuma. There Becky took good care of us!
The following week (Jan 21, 2022), Kerri and I drove down to Paradox in Trinidad. They mentioned that Grandma’s House just opened a tap room down the street, so that was our next stop. After one more stop at Peaks N Pines in Fountain, I headed towards the finish line. The last brewery was Bell Brothers in Colorado Springs. That brought my total of unique breweries to 446 (including some that are no longer with us), plus an additional 70 when counting all the secondary locations.
What are some of your favorite memories of your quest?
Finding unique breweries, such as Brewability in Englewood which hires people with developmental disabilities, White Labs (now closed) where you could taste how just the yeast can completely change a beer, Ramskeller in Fort Collins where the Fermentation Science Program at CSU gives college credit for drinking beer, and Local Relic in Colorado Springs – do beer and religion mix? Meeting people and having great conversations. Enjoying a beer on a patio/rooftop with a great view. Recovering from a tough 14er with a well-deserved pint.
What are your favorite styles of beer and your top breweries in the state of Colorado in terms of your beer taste?
In college I grew up with Sierra Nevada, so you had to like IPAs. With the colder weather in Colorado, I’ve grown fond of porters and stouts, especially when barrel aged. Favorites include: 4 Noses, Avery, Chrysalis, New Image, Odd13, Outer Range, River North, Verboten, and WeldWerks.
What are some of your favorite destination Colorado breweries?
For the true destination breweries that people might come from other states to try, I would say Avery, Casey Brewing & Blending Barrel Center, and Left Hand.
For places I’d try to get back to when traveling, I would add Chrysalis Barrel Aged Beer in Paonia, WildEdge Brewing Collective in Cortez, and Knotted Root in Nederland.
What is your favorite hang-out brewery? (Where are folks most likely to run into you?)
I tend to bounce around a lot and don’t really hang out at one place. That said, I’ve been to Locavore the most.
What advice would you offer others trying to become a Colorado Brewery Master?
I found that fitting the breweries into my travel plans worked better than just traveling to the breweries. My family also appreciated that approach! Don’t get too focused on the beer. Enjoy the journey.
Welcome Glen to the ranks of the Colorado Brewery Masters! I very much look forward to meeting you in person and sharing a beer or three while swapping stories of our journey.
Are there any other Colorado Brewery Masters out there that I have missed? If you have been to every Colorado brewery or are close to doing so, I would love to hear from you! Do you want to learn more about the other Colorado Brewery Masters? Check out this CBM blog page which has all of the articles about us, (except me but you can read a bit about my initial quest here).
Better yet! Do you want to meet Glen and many more of the Colorado Brewery Masters? Come to a “Meet the Masters” event at Woods Boss Brewing on Feb 3rd at 6pm. See my Colorado Beer Geek Facebook page for more information.