DENVER -- Move over, Milwaukee. The Mile-High City is making claims that it is the beer-making capital of the U.S.

The Coors Brewery, founded in 1873 in Golden, a suburb of Denver, is famous as the largest single brewery in the world, using the natural spring water from the Rockies in the brewing process. But thats not the sole reason for Denvers claim as the beer-making capital.

Microbreweries specializing in a variety of beers have been sprouting up in the city -- and all over Colorado -- for the last couple of decades.

In fact, Colorado now ranks first in the nation in beer production per capita and second in the number of breweries in the state, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.

There are about 90 breweries in Colorado, offering a huge variety of beers, from wheat to stout, said Dick Kreck, a Denver Post columnist who is known as Mr. Beer.

There is a young and upwardly mobile population here, willing to try different beer styles and, not incidentally, pay the higher price tag for the privilege, he said.

The city also hosts the annual Great American Beer Festival, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who opened Denvers first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Co., in 1988, likes to call Colorado the Napa Valley of Beer. The Wynkoop Brewing Co. is one of the stops on a Microbrew Walking Tour of downtown Denver, created by the Hyatt Regency Denver.

The tour, which visits many of the award-winning breweries in the city, was designed by Kreck. It is a self-guided tour that enables hotel guests to wander at their leisure, sampling beers at various microbreweries and pubs downtown.

Many [microbreweries] are within easy walking distance of the hotel, said John Schafer, the Hyatts general manager. This tour showcases Denvers attractions such as Coors Field, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Denver Pavilions and Sixteenth Street Mall.

The tour includes a pint of beer at Breckenridge Brewery, two pints at the Denver Chop House, two pints at Rock Bottom Brewery and two pints at Wynkoop.

The $99 package includes an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency, a $10 coupon for the hotels restaurant and the tour with beer samplings. The package is offered on weekends throughout the year, subject to availability. To book, call (800) 233-1234.

To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].

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