A conversation with Dan Chacon,
Beer Buyer for Argonaut Wine & Liquor in Denver.
How did you become so knowledgeable about beer?
I first became interested in beer about 14 years ago, with my discovery of the craft beer movement. Before that, I wasn't much of a beer fan at all because I didn't enjoy the mass produced American lagers in the market. Basically, I went online and researched different beers and the culture surrounding them and of course, I ended up trying many of them.
How involved is Colorado in the craft beer market?
Actually, Colorado was one of the first states to get into craft beer and has helped lead the way in this quickly evolving industry. Today, we are ranked #3 in the nation, with more than 160 Colorado breweries, and more than 80 planning to open in the near future (there are approximately 2,400 nationwide). Some of the originators include Boulder Beer, Wynkoop Brewery (formerly owned by our own Governor, John Hickenlooper), Avery and New Belgium.
What distinguishes a craft-beer from regular beer?
It is called a craft beer because the brewers really take the time to craft and brew the beers, and they view the process as an art form. There is plenty of creativity and brewers are always trying new methods and ingredients to come up with new and better beers. They also only use quality ingredients and use adjuncts to enhance or change the flavor, rather than as fillers.
Read more about craft beer and Microbrewery
How big is the craft-beer market?
At a store like Argonaut, about 40% of our beer sales are now craft beer. This number is steadily rising. Nationwide, there was a 15% increase in craft beer sales in 2012. And it doesn't look like the demand for craft beer is going to slow down any time soon.
Why are so many craft beers sold in cans?
Quite simply, the use of cans preserves the integrity of the beer better. There is less oxidation because cans seal better than bottles and no UV light hits the beer (which harms it and changes the compounds of the beer). Also, the newer cans have a special lining so there is no metallic taste. Cans are better for the environment and in an outdoorsy state like ours, they're much easier to transport. Oskar Blues in Lyons and Longmont along with Ska Brewing in Durango were the first to package craft beer in cans.
Which are your personal favorites?
Bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts are my favorite. They are full flavored, rich, dark and malty. And after brewing, the beer is put into whiskey barrels, which imparts the flavors of the oak and whiskey into the beer. I also am a big fan of Belgian Sours (these were traditionally brewed in open vats to create spontaneous wild fermentation). The wild yeast strains and aging of the beers give them a sour, tart and funky flavor profile. I highly recommend trying New Belgium's La Folie and Russian River's Supplication as well as Cantillon and Drie Fortienen (when you can find them).
Which craft beers do you recommend for someone new to beer?
Belgian Wits, wheat ales, browns and ambers, offer a lot of flavor but not too much for a new palate to handle.
How much does craft beer cost?
A great craft beer 6-pack averages around $9.
How can I learn more about craft beer?
Join us in the store for weekly craft beer tastings in Denver on Friday afternoons, from 3-6. You can also ask some of our knowledgeable beer staff questions if you have any.