The Denver Post: With Coors Field as the catalyst, beer and baseball became forever intertwined in downtown Denver

“In the 1880s, St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe became the forefather in the long link between beer and baseball when he renovated Sportsman’s Park and added a beer garden in the right-field corner. On the playing field.

It was a wildly profitable and popular move for von der Ahe, a saloonkeeper by trade, who had noticed the boost of sales at his business before and after games. But the fact that fans wanted to drink beer during the game was a revolutionary idea at the time, and by capitalizing on it, von der Ahe intertwined the fates of beer and baseball forever.

Fast-forward more than a century later, and downtown Denver had its own von der Ahe moment.

The city — buoyed by entrepreneurial brewers as well as the unbreakable bond between beer and baseball — was on its way to becoming America’s capital of craft brew from the moment Coors Field opened its gates for the first time on April 26, 1995.

“What Coors Field did was become a real marketing engine for local breweries,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who founded downtown’s first brewery, Wynkoop Brewery, with three other partners in 1988.

“When the stadium first opened in 1995 — I’ll never forget this — that first April, sales at Wynkoop were up almost 50 percent. And then in May, they were up over 50 percent, and in June, July, August, September and October, they stayed at above a 55 percent increase.”

Hickenlooper, who went on to become the mayor of Denver before becoming the governor of Colorado, expected sales to die down come wintertime. They didn’t. Two other original downtown breweries that opened after Wynkoop — Breckenridge Brewery (opened in 1992 at 22nd and Blake) and Great Divide (1994, at 22nd and Arapahoe) — began their ascent into national brands in the years following the debut of Coors Field.

“That’s what you’d expect from a really successful marketing effort — to get people to come down and try your product, and if you’re doing a good enough job, people come back on their own without that original marketing effort,” Hickenlooper said. “The difference was our marketing was a baseball game.”

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