November 3, 2020 may be a way off, but the playing field for the Democratic presidential nominee is already looking crowded, with more than a dozen campaigns now underway. The latest candidate to dive into the fray is John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado and mayor of Denver.
Before he was known as a politician, however, Hickenlooper was primarily known for beer. Unlike Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose efforts to appear casual with a cold one Instagram fell flat for many, Hickenlooper’s interest in beer is arguably the foundation of his success. In 1988, after working as a geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum, he opened the Wynkoop Brewing Company with Mark Schiffler, Jerry William, and Russell Schehrer.
While opening a microbrewery in Denver feels like a no-brainer today, this was back when there were essentially no craft breweries in the city and only around 200 in the country. When the four partners initially picked the space, the real estate was all but worthless and the surrounding industrial area was considered dangerous. Now, Lower Downtown Historic District, or LoDo, is thriving, as is the original brewpub.
“My son says, ‘Yeah, we should put a brewer in the White House!’” Hickenlooper told told Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall on the Brewbound Podcast last year. “I was the first brewer to be elected governor since Sam Adams in 1791, so there is that tradition.”
Much of Hickenlooper’s successful transition into the political arena hinged on his ability to sell himself as a savvy small businessman—in other words, as a brewer. He knows it, too, or he wouldn’t have titled his own memoir The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics.
“When I started Wynkoop, most people starting craft breweries were refugees from another career. I was out of work for two years. When you’re out of work for two years, you see a different person in the mirror,” Hickenlooper continued. “And I think a lot of America is going through that. In a funny way, I think what we did in the beer industry is a model for us to address some of these challenges. We created a revolution.”
As far as the race for the primaries goes, Hickenlooper is one of the more moderate candidates. He’s a pro-business centrist and a long-time supporter of his states oil and gas industry, but publicly supports the Green New Deal. As governor, he successfully pushed for stronger firearm regulations, but initially opposed legalizing marijuana until its economic benefits became apparent. He is also one of the lesser known candidates, although that could change. We still have a long time to go.
Photo courtesy of John Hickenlooper on Facebook.