By: Jul 26, 2018
(Article featured in The Colorado Springs Gazette)

Our First Walking Beer Tour

I did my senior year of college at the University of Edinburgh, where it was common practice for recitation and study groups to convene for deeper dives at the pub. I’m not saying the habit was integral to my appreciation of Scottish history or Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” but I will tell you this: Learning about history or literature over a delicious pint in a place that was around when those events occurred or those words were written sure beats doing it under fluorescents over Irn-Bru at the library.

(Exit, pursued by a beer)

Manitou Springs resident Russell Shaw understands the powers of place and beer. In fact, they are guiding principles behind his new business venture Springs Beer Tours.

“My wife and I have done quite a bit of traveling over the years. We’ve been on a lot of beer, brewery and history tours,” said Shaw, who believes such excursions are low-key but informative ways to introduce a visitor to a city.

“So many times, I’ve gone down to Manitou Springs and I see people just walking around, and they have no idea what to do,” said Shaw, who launched his beer-and-history crawl through Manitou last month. “If they could just do my tour the first day, I could point out some of the major attractions and the great places to eat and drink and at least give them a little bit of bearings.”

Shaw said he was inspired after taking a pub crawl-style tour during a visit to London with his wife, Karen. Between stops at some of the city’s older watering holes, “the guide pointed out interesting Old London sites and historical things, and I thought it was just very interesting,” said Shaw, a disabled veteran who works full time in a civilian job at Peterson Air Force Base.

He’d been casting about for a new business pursuit, something “different” he could do in his downtime, and thought the history crawl model would be a perfect fit back home.

“I love Manitou Springs history, and the three places we go on my tour I think are really unique,” said Shaw, whose roughly two-hour tour begins at Creekside Cuisine and Craft Bar, continues on to The Cliff House and wraps up at Manitou Brewing Co., a route of up to a mile. “We’ve got three great stops, all with great beer and history, and in between I fill it in with a little bit of history about Colorado and Manitou Springs, plus a little bit about beer history.”

The flight of two beers that tour guests receive at Creekside is no random tapping.

“I really wanted to respect the history of Colorado craft beer so at the first stop I make sure we have a Boulder Brewing sample, since they were the first craft beer in Colorado, and a sample of our famous Colorado Springs Laughing Lab from Bristol,” said Shaw, who also offers custom and private tours. “And then I talk a little bit about the histories of both breweries.”

Trying to get insurance for his 21-and-older, walking beer tours was something of a struggle, and Shaw found himself having to defend not only the legitimacy of his venture but that of craft beer drinkers as a whole.

“I had to go through a lot of different companies. They said things like, ‘Well if you were a wine tour we could do it, but since you’re a beer tour we won’t …. Wine tours have more sophistication,’” said Shaw, who estimates Springs Beer Tour participants imbibe less than 2 pints of beer, all told. “I did find somebody eventually to insure us. It was just funny that that’s what they thought.”

Stephanie Earls

Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.