Colorado Springs residents do three things really well: Brew beer, drink beer, and run.
There are now more than two dozen breweries in the Pikes Peak region, with new startups emerging each month. We have a beer community, a beer culture with a beer economy. Breweries here enjoy a fiercely loyal clientele, and business is a-boomin'.
In short, Colorado Springs has beer energy. And Vanessa Shawver, a beer drinker with a running problem, has devised a way to capture that energy and pour it into the running community.
Introducing: the 2016 Inaugural Brewers' Cup. It works like this: Local breweries wrangle up teams of 15 runners. The runners score a point each time they enter one of 38 designated Pikes Peak Road Runners events. They can also earn a point by compiling five hours of volunteer service at races.
The team with the most points at year's end wins a traveling trophy and, more importantly, bragging rights.
The plan began to take shape this fall as Shawver plodded along the trails with her friend Jaclyn Roberson and Todd Baldwin, owner of Red Leg Brewing Company. Baldwin's Red Leg team prompted Fossil Brewing Company and Manitou Brewing Company to create teams, begin a friendly competition and seek new customers among thirsty runners.
But how to capture the beer energy?
"We debated all kinds of ways of doing this," Shawver said. "The requests were coming in to join. There are two things I'm most passionate about, running and beer. So I thought, why don't we open it up to everybody?"
The first race is the Rescue Run, a fundraiser for El Paso County Search and Rescue, on Jan. 1.
It has become the perfect idea at the perfect time for runners and beer drinkers. The Brewers' Cup is raging. Shawver expected six teams in 2016. But that number exploded to 19. More teams can be added after Jan. 1, but Shawver said it may be better to wait until 2017.
Biff Morehead's Smiling Toad Brewery was a recent addition. Morehead says the Brewers' Cup is a perfect fit for his business.
"We like fitness, and we like running," he says. "We like the outdoors. The beer business is more than drinking and telling stories. It's going out and being active in the community."
Eric Bowers at the brand-new Peaks N Pines Brewery agrees that it's not all about the beer. "We're all things Colorado," he says. "We love the outdoor activities we have here, and we think the team is a nice complement to our theme as a brewery."
The cup promises increased exposure and business, but the benefits to the community will run deep.
Traditional running races have experienced a steady decline in participation while themed events — Color Runs, Mud Runs and such — have gathered momentum and customers. The Brewers' Cup will inject some life and registration fees into local events coordinated by the Pikes Peak Road Runners, an organization in need of fresh legs.
Roberson, who will run for Manitou Brewing Company, says the cup competition is an excellent motivator.
"I tend to be an introvert, and I think a lot of runners are, so it's nice to have an excuse to get involved," she says. "I'm excited because I've talked to people who have run a couple of races, and now they're going to run in all of these races."
A mother of two, Roberson says she and her husband Duane have created a calendar of the cup events. This will be a big year of running.
"I think a lot of people have lost their thunder for local events," she says. "But this should bring them back. We're going to get a sitter, and we're going to make it happen."
Running fast is not necessary; participating is what the cup is all about. Shawver designed it that way.
"You will show up when you know other people rely on you," she says. "This will be something that I know will carry me through the year. I know I'll have at least started some momentum to some good stuff."
Check out the 2016 Inaugural Brewers' Cup Facebook page, or the Pikes Peak Road Runners' website, pprrun.org, for more information.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the current number of Brewers' Cup teams.