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Wynkoop Brewing's Founder Runs for Governor

Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, who founded the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in 1988, announced on January 12 that he will run for Colorado governor.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, received a phone call from President Barack Obama urging him to run for the seat that will be vacated by Bill Ritter. He has been Denver’s mayor since 2003. Ritter announced that he would not seek re-election this fall.
Hickenlooper is credited with helping to revitalize a then-rundown area of Denver that is now the bustling, thriving area known as LoDo (Lower Downtown) when he opened the Wynkoop with fellow homebrewer Russell Schehrer. Hickenlooper had been laid off from his job as a geologist and was inspired by a visit to an ale house in Berkeley, Calif. to open the Wynkoop. Hickenlooper had been a homebrewer since 1971.


In 2007, Hickenlooper sold his share of Wynkoop Holdings, which operates seven Denver restaurants including the Cherry Cricket and Wazee Supper Club, to his employees, but he has continued to be involved in the Colorado brewing scene. In 2007, he spoke at the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewers Conference in Denver, and he has been a frequent guest at the Wynkoop’s annual Beer Drinker of the Year competition.

“I think there’s still a soft spot in his heart for the craft brewing community,” said Left Hand Brewing Co. co-founder Eric Wallace, president of the Colorado Brewers Guild.

Wallace thinks Hickenlooper’s connection to craft brewing would bode well for Colorado’s craft brewing industry if he is elected governor.

“He understands the business end of it, which is great,” said Wallace. “He understands that our industry has grown immensely and that we employ a lot of people. He’s done a really good job in Denver dealing with a tough budget, and we have the same situation in the state.”

Hickenlooper came out of seemingly nowhere to win the mayoral election in 2003 with quirky television ads depicting him fighting a one-man battle against the city’s parking meters while zipping around town on his scooter. He was reelected in 2007 by a landslide with 87 percent of the vote.

Hickenlooper cited his business background in pledging to bring Colorado out of recession.

“With so many people in this state out of work or facing economic hardship, I believe as governor I can bring my experience in business and the public service to the job of creating jobs,” Hickenlooper said. “That’s going to be my mission as Colorado’s next governor.”

Critics of Hickenlooper are referring to him as HickenRitter, which doesn’t faze him in the least.

“I had a tough third grade [with] pooper-scooper, chicken-cooper. If HickenRitter’s the best they can do, I’m not too worried,” he said.

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