When partygoers attending Tuesday's inauguration dinner honoring new Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper want to wet their whistle, they’ll be able to toast the man of honor with a “Hickenlooper Inaugurale.” The beer is a commemorative brew being served from the brewpub he helped found, Wynkoop Brewery.
It’s a fitting tribute to the politician who perhaps took the unlikeliest path to office among the 26 new governors taking an oath this month.
Hickenlooper, born and raised on the East coast, is a former geologist and home brewer turned accidental restaurateur. After more than a decade as a successful entrepreneur, he parlayed his newfound marketing and business savvy into a successful campaign for Denver Mayor, a race where the first-time candidate was given little chance against a field of more seasoned politicians.
After two-terms as Denver Mayor, he’ll now be the governor of one of the most high profile western states.
Hickenlooper told CNBC his experience running a brewpub has already paid dividends in politics.
“When you run a brewpub or restaurant you learn how important it is to listen to people,” said Hickenlooper. “Even if you don't agree with their opinion. Listening gets things done. Alienating people and turning your back just makes things worse.”
Hickenlooper co-founded the Wynkoop in 1988, after he was laid off from his job as a geologist with Buckhorn Petroleum. Using the two years severance he received from Buckhorn, he partnered with current Wynkoop COO Mark Schiffler and GM Ron Robinson to open Denver’s first brew pub.
In 2007, Hickenlooper sold his ownership interests back to Wynkoop Holdings, the parent company of Wynkoop Brewing Company
While Hickenlooper’s path to governorship may have been unconventional, Wynkoop spokesman Marty Jones says the decision to brew a commemorative beer to honor the man who helped found the brewery was an easy decision.
“Your founder becoming Governor? That’s about as special as it gets,” said Jones. “John may be the first brewer-turned-Governor in the nation’s history. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to brew a unique beer in his honor.”
Hickenlooper isn’t the first brewer turned politician. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were also known to brew their own suds.
“There's a reason our nation was founded by brewers and its guiding principles were written in taverns. Beer may be the ultimate catalyst for collaboration” says Hickenlooper. “It's amazing how quickly people's differences disappear over a couple glasses of good beer. Politics often divides people, but beer brings people together.“
As for the the Wynkoop, they brewed “Hickenlooper Inaugurale” as a one-time-only, 18-barrel batch, and the beer will only be available to the public at the inauguration dinner and on draft at the brewery, while supplies last.
The brew, a cross between a hearty brown ale and a winter warmer, is made with all Colorado grown base malts and Colorado beet sugar, a nod by Wynkoop head brewer Andy Brown to the fact that “nobody could beat John in the election.”
Brown crafted another wink to Hickenlooper’s new job into the ale.
“At about 6.8 percent ABV,” says Brown, “it’s got the extra backbone one needs for taking on a tough gig in tough times.