Charlie Staats from Texas stands in his hotel room at the Adam’s Mark in Denver, with the door propped open. He’s stashed the hotel trinkets in drawers, and every horizontal surface—the coffee table, the bed, the chairs, even the ironing board—has become display space for his collection of Texas brewery memorabilia. Staats specializes in anything from San Antonio. The room is filled with Lone Star and Pearl brewery signs and beer cans, ready for other collectors who drop in to buy or trade.
The lower tower of the Adam’s Mark was once a department store, before its eight floors were converted to hotel space. But on this evening in September, many of the rooms have reverted to their old retail role. For a few nights, each open room is a little antique shop dedicated to beer.
The hotel’s housekeeping staff is under strict orders not to make the beds, or clean off the counters or furniture. They know to leave the cans, bottles, openers and tap knobs alone. If it’s garbage, it’s in the garbage can.
Staats and about 800 others are in Denver for the annual CANvention, the biggest gathering of hobbyists who collect all things related to beer. It’s early in the week, before the main trade floor opens, and the action is in the hotel corridors, where the Room to Room (as it’s called) is in full swig. The room holders themselves are often away from their own rooms, getting another beer or checking out other displays, but the rule is “if the door’s open, the store’s open.”
A watering hole with a couple of tapped kegs is strategically located on each floor. The visitors can refill their plastic cups with beer as they migrate from one collector’s room to another, making a circuit of each floor before they wander down the stairs to the next floor.
Just who are these characters who have taken their beer passion to nearly obsessive levels? What makes the relics of beer’s past so compelling that enthusiasts will travel to all parts of the country, completely rearrange their homes around their hobby, or jeopardize marital harmony? Welcome to the world of the collector.