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TheStreet Open House

No Bud for This Craft Beer Super Bowl

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Some folks saw this year's Super Bowl matchup and saw Denver's Peyton Manning vs. Seattle's Richard Sherman. Others saw two states where you can smoke weed recreationally without being hassled by the man.

Someone who spends a whole lot of time in bottle shops picking out IPAs and stout or in the basement or garage sterilizing carboys and fermenting batches may not even see Seahawks or Broncos: Just two states filled with great beer.

Anheuser-Busch InBev  (BUD) paid $1 billion a few years ago to become the NFL's official beer sponsor and pays even more each year for exclusive beer commercial rights during the Super Bowl. That's not going to pay off in the home state of either of this year's Super Bowl teams.

When Seattle and Denver square off on Sunday night, it'll be a matchup of two of the greatest beer states in the union. According to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group, the 161 breweries in Washington state and 154 in Colorado at the end of 2012 were the second- and third-most in the country behind only California's 325. When it comes to breweries per capita, however, Colorado ranks No. 5 in the nation with one for every 32,657 people of drinking age. Washington comes in at No. 8 with one brewery for every 41,767. California doesn't show up until No. 19, with nearly 115,000 people scrambling for beers from each brewery there.

While the red Rainier R still glows over the Seattle skyline and Coors  (TAP) still brews in Golden, Colo., and doles out Blue Moon at Coors Field in Denver, it's the small brewers behind the craft beer movement that breathed new life into each state's brewing culture. Bert Grant not only opened the nation's first brewpub since Prohibition when founded Grant's Brewery Pub/Yakima Brewing in Yakima, Wash., in 1982, but he also gave the world its first taste of fresh-hop ale using hops grown in the valley surrounding his pub. Though no longer considered craft by the Brewers Association, both Redhook and Pyramid were among craft beer's pioneers when their Seattle breweries opened in 1981 and 1984, respectively. Grant, Redhook founder Paul Shipman and Pyramid founder Beth Hartwell laid the groundwork that made great Washington breweries like Yakima's Bale Breaker and Seattle's Elysian Brewing and Two Beers Brewing possible.

All of must seem cute by Colorado standards. There's a reason the Brewers Association is based in Boulder, Colo., and his name is Charlie Papazian. After brewing as a student at the University of Virginia in the 1970s, Papazian moved out to Boulder and began teaching home brewing classes there. It wasn't quite legal nationally at the time, but neither were some of Boulder's other favorite recreational activities of note. When President Jimmy Carter made home brewing legal on the federal level, Papazian's gospel spread quickly.

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