The Colorado beer industry has a new power player, and she’s got extra toes.
She also doesn’t drink beer, but that can be forgiven, since she’s 4 years old and also a cat.
Elaia the Brewery Cat started going to Denver- and Golden-area breweries just two months ago, and she’s already been to more than the average person visits in a year. On a recent Wednesday evening, she saw her 23rd and 24th — Wynkoop Brewing Co. and Mockery Brewing — where she met both brewmasters.
“She’s always been super social, like a dog,” said Myriah Robinson, who adopted Elaia four years ago in Washington. “She loves people. She would love to come out places, but she’s not leash-trained or anything, so this is perfect.”
From inside her special cat-carrier backpack — the look of which prompts everyone to call it her “spaceship” — Elaia gets secondhand lessons in beer and the business of it.
Michael Roberts, Elaia’s other human, works at New Terrain Brewing Co. in Golden where, he says, “I just kind of do everything for them, which is fun.” Prior to that, he worked in business information systems for a little while before he got sick of it, quit and spent a year traveling to 800 breweries, living in a van with a friend.
“I’m creeping up on brewery visit 1,000. I think I’m at 990,” he said. “So we booked a flight to Europe, and we’re gonna go to No. 1,000 over there, but in the meantime, I’ve actually had to slow down. I can’t go to new breweries. So that’s kind of where this came into play, to get my fix, I guess. Now I can take the cat to breweries I’ve been to but are new to her.”
Robinson — whose own beer-loving roots are planted in her hometown of Yakima, Washington, where more than 77 percent of U.S. hops are produced — heard about a cat that sometimes visits Cerebral Brewing Co. in a cat backpack. And when one of Roberts’ coworkers at New Terrain spotted one, they were sold. They bought one on the spot and started taking Elaia out as soon as it arrived.
During their visits to Wynkoop and Mockery, he and Robinson chat with the brewers and enthusiastically try new beers, logging them all in an app where they’ve tallied nearly 11,000.
When she’s not listening in on the beer talk, Elaia — with her wide green eyes, soft gray coat and preternaturally calm demeanor — is busy getting her picture taken and graciously accepting petting from charmed, bemused or squealing drinkers. And sometimes she just takes a nap.
She loves it.
“She’s very engaging. Loves people,” Roberts said, “which is why she loves this so much.”
“A dog in a cat’s body,” Robinson added. “That’s how I always explain her.”
Out and about in her spaceship, Elaia is calm and quiet unless she’s not getting enough attention (which, to be fair, you could say about a lot of humans, too).
At home, she’s energetic and vocal, Robinson said. Her brother, Leo, is less social, which is why he doesn’t have his own “catstronaut” adventures. Elaia’s not a drinker, but she will stick her head in a glass of beer for a sniff. She sometimes sleeps inside her spaceship and will sit patiently beside it, awaiting the next journey.
So far, she’s only been turned away from a brewery once. As a general rule, she’s welcome wherever they welcome dogs. (And when dogs come over to sniff her out, she tried to bat at them through the backpack. “The dogs get scared. She’s very dominant,” Roberts said.)
The bartender at Wynkoop, thrown a little off-balance when he realized there was a cat sitting at his bar, said she could stay inside as long as she stayed in her backpack. At Mockery, the bartender and brewer hardly batted an eye, though the rest of the room either stared or approached her to take pictures.
Some breweries will see her Instagram page and invite her out, and in one case, a picture of Elaia won Roberts and Robinson tickets to a beer festival.
She’s already been to one festival, in fact, and Robinson and Roberts are contemplating taking her to Great American Beer Festival, if they can.
Next, they want to travel with Elaia, who Robinson says was fairly chill about moving from Washington to Dallas and then from Dallas to Denver.
“She’s the first animal that’s part of the Society of Beer Travelers, as well,” Roberts said. “It’s a group of people who do what I do — travel as much as they can with the purpose of going to breweries … So I signed her up.”
For now, at least, they’re staying local. If you want to meet Elaia in person, she’d love it. She’ll be ready and waiting for scratches behind the ears at Banded Oak Brewing Co. (470 Broadway, Denver) Friday around 5 p.m. and New Terrain (16401 Table Mountain Parkway, Golden) Saturday around 3 p.m.