The Firsts and Lasts of Lew Cady

The Firsts and Lasts of Lew Cady

Studio Pattern took a field trip on Friday, Jan 7, 2011 to be among the first people to try the brand new Hickenlooper’s Inaugurale at the Wynkoop. After spending many hours designing the logo for this dark beauty, we had to give it a taste.

Amy may have been the first person to drink this beer after biking to the Wynkoop from over two miles away. But she has nothing on Lew Cady, a man of many firsts, who enjoyed the very first pint of the newly released, limited-edition beer (after waiting in line with 20 other enthusiasts.)

Amy got to meet the man himself, hanging out with some other members of Denver’s Who’s Who, by the greeter’s table at the front of the Wynkoop. She didn’t have long to make friends, but Cady agreed to email her his legendary “Firsts and Lasts of Lew Cady” document.

The man, the legend

Long a beer wonk (his now-collectible 1976 book on collecting beer cans is available intermittently on Amazon) and a fan of the Wynkoop (took the first shot at the institution’s pool hall in 1992 and was the first to drink everything on tap there in 2001), Cady has over 17 pages of Firsts and Lasts that he’s collected over the last 73 years.

The first First, of course, is that he was the first child born to his parents, back in 1937. After that, his list becomes an interesting lens through which one can examine history—especially the evolution of America’s and Colorado’s liquor laws.

He has a list of at least a dozen young people he’s bought their first alcoholic drink—some at age 21, others at age 18, which just goes to show how long he’s been at this.

He made the first purchase (a can of SPAM for just over a dollar) from the Safeway on S. Colorado Blvd in 1985.

He printed the first copies on colored paper at Alphagraphics at 17th and Arapahoe in 1992.

In what must have been a staggering feat of alcohol consumption, Cady was one of the first four people to drink beer in every open bar on Colfax in one day—August 11, 1994.

He was the first to check out a book from Denver’s new Central Library in 1995.

This means war

He was the first to buy pork chops from Esquire Meat Market when it reopened after being closed due to a fire next door in 2000. He was also the first to pay cash and enter after their official opening time of 9 am. “Some lowlife,” he writes, “had made a purchase at 7:30 am, so I was the second customer since the reopening. But she paid by check and bought steaks.” Well, you have to draw the line somewhere.

This brings up an interesting point: after so many firsts, is Cady getting competitive about it? Maybe a little. According to an April 2010 article from the Denver Post, Cady may have intended to be the first to ride one of Denver’s B-Cycles when that program started last spring. However, a fellow Firster named Bill Jenkins beat him to it. “I can now say that I was the first and will continue to take down Lew Cady!” he declared to the Post. Cady seems unwilling to confirm or deny if he was even interested, but it seems like his kind of First. Read more of the original article here.

Lew’s lasts

Reviewing the list, you notice some other themes that start to emerge. In addition to drinking the first beer in myriad locations (including ones smuggled into the Denver Library in 1995, Boettcher Hall in 2005, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007), Cady apparently has a thing for purchasing the first can of SPAM at various grocery stores. He was the first customer at lots of local businesses, and the last at a remarkable number too. It makes me picture him as a sort of angel of entrepreneurial death—maybe you know that if it’s not your first day, and Lew Cady comes in to get his hair cut, your barber shop is not long for this world.

The Lasts are perhaps more poetic than the firsts. They outline an interesting and poignant history of Denver’s growing pains. Cady was the last to “inflict graffiti” on the men’s rooms’ walls at Stapleton International Airport in 1995, and last to make several bizarrely specific purchases at its concourse stores (peanuts, magazines and a Tropicana Twister). He was the last to drive or walk over a few bridges and overpasses that have since been demolished, and bought the last beer at innumerable dried-up watering holes.

He has been there to bless a few local businesses as they went through relocations as well—last to purchase a book at the old Cherry Creek Tattered Cover in 2006, and first to buy one at its new location in the Lowenstein Theater, two days later. He bought the first one-cent stamp at Denver’s Main Post Office in its new location in 1991, after closing out the old PO with a similar purchase 4 days earlier.

The list goes on

In 2005, Cady completed a mission that wouldn’t have been possible in his younger days: drinking a beer in a brewpub in each of the 50 states. Due to the legacy of Prohibition and the consolidation of the large brewing companies in America, our nation’s small-batch and home-brewing industries had pretty much died out in the early part of the 20th century. The first American brewpub opened only as recently as 1982 (in Yakima, WA), but by 2006 there were hundreds.

In 2008, he was the first to buy liquor on a Sunday after the Colorado law permitting Sunday sales went into effect. For the record, it was a six-pack of Coors Banquet and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

On November 17, 2010, Cady was the first person to buy beer, wine and whiskey at a King Soopers—after the first King Soopers with an in-house liquor store opened on Leetsdale. He bought SPAM there the same day as well—how could he not?

We were happy to find the latest entry on his list is indeed “First to enjoy a pint of Hickenlooper’s Inaugurale after its release at the Wynkoop on January 7, 2011.”

Cheers, Mr. Cady.


18 Jan 2011, Posted by brittany in Studio News, 1 Comment. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,


August 4, 2013 5:40 pm


Lew passed away this morning. He was a friend of mine and I am a better person for being able to say that. As one might surmise from the readings here, Lew was a true original and this world is a less interesting place without him here…Cheers my friend!…Ron Greenblatt

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