Author: Clay Bonnyman Evans

After three dry years, beer makes a comeback at Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Concessions for 66th season will feature two canned brews from long-time partner Left Hand Brewing Co.

“For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.” — The Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 2

It’s been three long, dry years since the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has been able to offer alcoholic beverages to patrons during its annual summer season, due to two factors: the COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent labor shortage.

But beer will make a much-anticipated comeback for the festival’s upcoming 66th season, thanks to its longstanding partnership with Longmont’s storied Left Hand Brewing Co. 

Concession stands in the Shakespeare Gardens, inside the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and in the lobby of the newly renovated indoor Roe Green Theatre will offer two of Left Hand’s hand-crafted canned brews:

Good and Gone, a “crisp and clean” Vienna lager “with a biscuity malt framework and earthy hops, offering toasty malt flavor with residual caramel-like sweetness on the back end.”

Dry Irish Stout Nitro, a full-bodied stout featuring “a robust malt profile … with aromas of chocolate, coffee and a hint of graham cracker.”

Audiences have missed the opportunity to enjoy a beer during shows over the past three years, says CSF Managing Director Wendy Franz.

 “I read every single one of the audience surveys and the biggest request we got was to bring back beer,” she says.

The entire 2020 season was canceled, due to the pandemic. For the limited 2021 season, rules enacted by the national labor union Actors’ Equity, which represents performers and stage managers, required that all audience members be masked at all times, indoors or out. That meant no eating or drinking during performances.

“There was still so much unknown,” Franz says. “They wanted to make sure they were protecting their members.”

In 2022, CSF’s plan to offer a full complement of concessions, including snacks, beer and wine foundered on a labor shortage widely seen by experts as a hangover from the pandemic. To offer alcohol would have required at least 20 staff to be fully trained in TIPS, a national alcohol-safety certification program, but the festival was only able to hire 12 qualified employees.

“We are used to serving 600 people in 20 minutes, so we need a certain number of people on hand to check IDs and pour in a rapid-fire operation,” Franz says.

In addition, CU Boulder requires that CSF hire multiple campus security officers, depending on the size of the venue, if alcohol is being served.

With limited staff and all the extra costs of security, CSF made the “hard call” to streamline its concessions for 2022, offering only an option of a sweet or salty snack and bottled water.

But with a full season scheduled for 2023, long-time CSF supporter and Left Hand Brewing founder Eric Wallace broached the topic of providing beer over lunch with top staff.

“He said it would be really meaningful to him if we could bring back beer for the ’23 season,” Franz says.

Left Hand for years provided the lower-alcohol Bard’s Ale, a mild English ale, in bottles with a special CSF label. Since then, the brewery debuted cans for most of its products, which translates to less staff time for each customer.

“We’re so excited to bring Left Hand back,” Franz says. “They provide such an outstanding product, and the transition to cans means we will be able to serve patrons more quickly.”

For several years prior to the pandemic, the festival also offered wine at its concession sites. But eyeing chronic sourcing and distribution issues, and lacking a wine sponsor, staff decided for the 66th season to focus on craft brews from one of its most loyal sponsors over the years.

“Honestly, concessions never make much money. But our audience loves being able to get snacks and drinks. It really enhances and enriches the experience for everyone, and it gives us the opportunity to spotlight our long-time partnership with Left Hand,” Franz says.

Season and single tickets for CSF’s 2023 lineup are on sale now at