Colorado Senator Cory Gardner chases Washington, D.C. beer cup with Breckenridge brew master’s help |

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner chases Washington, D.C. beer cup with Breckenridge brew master’s help

Sen. Cory Gardner visits Breckenridge Brewery as part of Anheuser-Busch’s annual “Brew Across America” brewing competition Tuesday, July 3, in Breckenridge.
Hugh Carey /

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner raised a cold one from the rooftop of the Breckenridge Brewery on Tuesday, the culmination of a short day’s work crafting a new state-inspired beer for an upcoming contest in Washington, D.C.

In a departure from the bitterness of Washington politics, Gardner stopped by the local brewery for Anheuser-Busch’s annual Brew Across America competition, a relatively new event that has a dozen members of Congress from eight states vying to see who can create the best craft beer for the Brew Across America Beer Festival.

The global beer giant started the festival last year with nine members of Congress competing before bringing it back again this year in hopes of making the event one of Washington’s more lighthearted annual occurrences.

For the burgeoning competition, each participating member of Congress visits local breweries in his or her state in a series of “Brew Days” over the summer.

During the visits, they learn about the brewing process, get hands-on experience and even pick out some of the ingredients as they work with master brewers to craft the beer in conjunction with Anheuser-Busch’s partner breweries.

For Gardner’s Brew Day, the Colorado Republican met with employees of the brewery and toured the facility from bottom to top, including going into the basement to learn about the aging process before climbing up on the roof to take in the amazing view Breckenridge has to offer.

During his one-on-one private lesson, Gardner shoveled mash, added some of the ingredients himself and crushed hops in his hands before taking a good whiff as he went through all of the steps with master brewer Jimmy Walker as a guide.

Gardner and Walker’s goal is to create a one-of-a-kind beer using ingredients and flavors from Colorado. Walker said that the unamed beer will be a tart, prickly pear pale ale aged in tequila barrels. Though it will be tart, he said connoisseurs can expect the pear puree to add a “nice color of sweetness” and the tequila barrels will give the beer an added layer of character.

One of the names floated by the senator’s staffers Tuesday was “Grow a Pear,” a reference to the prickly pear additions and the idea that the beer comes with an extra kick from the tequila barrels. It was a popular suggestion among the small group, but Gardner seemed to think they’d continue working on it before making a decision.

The contest will culminate in the second annual Brew Across America Beer Festival on Sept. 5 in Washington, D.C. It’s the signature event of the Brew Democracy initiative, which is Anheuser-Bush’s effort to educate congressional leaders about the industry while helping bridge political divides over a beer.

The beers members of Congress help to create will be judged by a panel of media personalities, local celebrities and beer experts, who will then crown the winner of the Brew Democracy Cup.

Last year the cup, and corresponding bragging rights, went to Rep. Jason T. Smith, R-Mo., for his “Gateway IPA,” which was a nod to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Naturally, Gardner would like to claim the trophy for Colorado this go-round, since in 2017 the state was ranked as having the second-most craft breweries in the nation, behind only California, according to the Denver Business Journal.

“First of all, I think you look at Colorado’s craft industry. This has been such a successful component of who we are as a state, our identity, our culture,” Gardner said Tuesday after glimpsing the incredibly scenic view of Breckenridge from the rooftop of the brewery.

He added that craft beer has been a major economic driver for communities across the state for quite some time now and even Gardner’s hometown of Yuma has a new brewery, despite having a population of around 3,500. The best part of the state’s craft beer, Gardner added, is how intrinsically Colorado it is.

“Just to see all that goes into it — it’s not something you’re importing from China, or wherever — I mean this is stuff that’s locally grown, right?” he said. “It’s made and sourced locally, and it takes advantage of all that is Colorado — great clean water, barley that’s malted locally. It’s the story of who we are.”

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