Brewing, Cideries & Spirits  December 1, 2023

Boulder Social keeps Boulder Beer’s legacy alive

BOULDER – The brewery is new, but the tradition it’s keeping alive dates back 44 years.

When Boulder Social took over a brewery at 1600 38th St. that used to be home to Fate Brewing and then Ska Street Brewstillery, it also took on the job of producing a golden ale that’s one of the last vestiges of Colorado’s first craft brewery.

Buffalo Gold, a favorite that was served up for decades by Boulder Beer Co. and whose name pays tribute to the University of Colorado’s Golden Buffaloes athletic teams and the two CU Boulder professors who started the pioneering brewery in 1979, is now being produced at Boulder Social under the watchful eyes of veteran brewmaster Rodney Taylor.

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Boulder Social’s restaurant “opened in early September 2022 and got brewing operations underway in November, so I think Buffalo Gold was the first one we did, and its first release was in December,” said Hunter Shumaker, regional manager for Boulder Social as well as Stout Street Social in downtown Denver.

For those first few months, he said, brewing wasn’t done in house. To produce the ale took some tweaking of the equipment left over from Fate and Ska, which “opened right as the pandemic started so they were kind of dead in the water,” Shumaker said. “We had a big problem with the cooling system. Especially for lagering, you have to have a cooler system.”

The glycol “jacket” around the brew kettle proved too finicky, and the Boulder Social team eventually had to buy a new one from Washington state. Brewing finally started under Boulder Social’s roof around Thanksgiving.

Taylor’s initial offerings included some exclusive Social brews as well as Buffalo Gold, which is mildly malty with a crisp, balanced hop finish. He wants to add some other Boulder Beer Co. recipes as well.

“We’re working on the shake porter,” Shumaker said. “It has a chocolate malt taste to it, and that will probably get brewed this winter. For short periods we’ve had the Hola Maria Mexican lager, and last winter we had the Slopestyle IPA.”

Boulder Social’s own creations include a stout, an Irish red ale, a festbier, a “breakfast pale ale,” a double IPA, a hazy IPA and a West Coast IPA. It tapped a fruity Belgian Tripel on Nov. 16, and for this season is also serving up a pumpkin ale.

But the star of the show remains Buffalo Gold.

“That was pretty much the flagship of Boulder Beer,” Shumaker said, “and people come in who remember it. We also have good ties with the university.”

Besides, he said, it’s a family thing.

“We’re owned by Frank Day” under the Concept Restaurants umbrella, Shumaker said, “and his wife, Gina, was owner of Boulder Beer. Rodney worked at Walnut Brewery, and they also sold Boulder Beer there.”

Originally called Boulder Brewing Co. when it was founded 44 years ago as one of only 43 operating craft breweries in the country, what would become Boulder Beer Co. was born on a small farm northeast of Boulder that shared space in a shed that originally housed a few goats. It moved in 1984 to 2880 Wilderness Place and expanded from a one-barrel brewing system to a 50-barrel brewhouse.

Gina Day and Diane Greenlee bought the company in 1990, renamed the business Boulder Beer Co., and brought in brewmaster David Zuckerman, who soon introduced Buffalo Gold and Singletrack Rye Pale Ale. The company added a tap house at Denver International Airport in 2005 and added a second pub location at 1123 Walnut St. in Boulder in 2017, then rebranded that location as Squared Pizza + Beer in 2018.

But in late 2019, reacting to a changing industry, Boulder Beer announced it would downsize and end national distribution of its beers, then signed an agreement with Denver-based contract brewery Sleeping Giant to continue producing its six main brands including Mojo IPA and Buffalo Gold. It closed the Wilderness Place brewpub, and then in July 2021, founders Gina and Frank Day, through holding company 2880 Wilderness Inc., offloaded the roughly 19,000-square-foot building to Iron 26 LLC for $4.25 million. Iron 26 is an affiliate of Denver-based NexCore Group, a medical office real estate developer. The taproom at DIA closed as well.

But Buffalo Gold lives on at Boulder Social.

“We just want to keep it up and keep the Boulder brand alive,” Shumaker said. “We think it’s good for the community to remember some of those beers. They like to see some of their favorites still around.”


A mug of Buffalo Gold golden ale is served up at Boulder Social, which opened late 2022. Courtesy Boulder Social

BOULDER – The brewery is new, but the tradition it’s keeping alive dates back 44 years.

When Boulder Social took over a brewery at 1600 38th St. that used to be home to Fate Brewing and then Ska Street Brewstillery, it also took on the job of producing a golden ale that’s one of the last vestiges of Colorado’s first craft brewery.

Buffalo Gold, a favorite that was served up for decades by Boulder Beer Co. and whose name pays tribute to the University of Colorado’s Golden Buffaloes athletic teams and the two CU Boulder professors who started the pioneering brewery in…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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