Drinking Down the Mountain: adult adventures with The Passport Program
It’s an early Colorado morning on a Thursday and my wife and I don’t have shit to do. The laundry’s done, every Netflix queue is dry, and work can wait until tomorrow. Then it hits us, friends of ours gifted everyone drink passports for the holidays.
Time for a road trip.
Founded in Denver a few years back by a company named Two Parts , The Passport Program is to adults what the Gold C coupon book was to kids growing up here. For years, my family decided on what to eat, when to go to the movies, what adventures to take, and even who would fix our vacuum that one time it burned out trying to suck up a busted RC Car part of mine I’d been looking for since Christmas ’88.
You see, the Gold C book had hundreds of companies all vying for your attention in one massive collection. For the price of a few VHS tapes, the lucky chosen one with the phat stack of coupons in his/her hand was awarded thousands of dollars in discounts. Back then, it told every family who owned one where to go and what to do.
The Passport Program is just that, with a big kid twist.
With multiple seasonal versions, in multiple cities and regions, there’s easily something there to find fodder for a daily adventure.
Quickly, my wife and I grabbed our “Mountain” and “Denver” editions and headed up the hill. As it was early on a Thursday, even the traffic reminded us of those spacious days of the late ‘80s. The adventure began to look a lot like the past 20 years never happened — even though the seatbelts fit a little tighter now.
Our first stop was Breckenridge, city by the bay. The problem? We hadn’t called ahead to any of the included restaurants or bars and thusly got shafted by the fact many of them there, and in Silver Plume, didn’t open until way later (or are closed completely until the busy weekends). It derailed us, sure, but drifting back down, we finally found solace and beers in Idaho Springs.
As it was still early, we looked like a pair of mountaineering lushes — dressed to our nines because that’s what we do when we go out. The only others at the bar were retirees and a group of 20-somethings interested in the NBA trade deadline. They were on their way up the mountain, us, back down. After settling in with a 2-for-1 fruity Weiss concoction, the ‘tender asked us what our deal was.
“I’ve seen so many of these come through here,” she said of the passport when I handed it to her.
“Really?” I asked, genuinely interested in cold, hard numbers.
“At least six a day,” she responded. “The 2-for-1s are a great deal, aren’t they?”
She wasn't bullshitting. She had no reason to lie. These are insanely popular.
As someone who counts every penny of his every night before laying down to sleep — or at least should now that I think about it — I began going over the actual value of the little booklet.
It’s a lot. Consider the Mountain pass, with 30 bars offering specials. If you were to use all coupons, you’d save around $200. The Denver edition has even more places in the pack; and at $20 a pop for the booklets ($15 if you jump in now), it’s a no-brainer there’s value in them thar hills.
And full disclosure, I thought it silly to be basing my entire day around an entire booklet at first, even more so when I found out we weren’t hitting these bars at the right time for it to be the most impactful on my wallet. Then again, I’d never heard of most of these places, and I’ve lived in Colorado all my life. It turned out to be one of the best ways to explore hangouts I've ever only seen on Instagram.
After mulling around for a few hours, it was back to Denver, more specifically the easier-to-park-in RiNo neighborhood. This too had bars closed during a Thursday afternoon, but not all of them were this way. We managed to hit four bars and restaurants we’ve never heard of in the span of a few hours, chatting up the bartenders and watching the neighborhood change right before our eyes in the process. Even wandering around, we both gasped at how the city’s changed.
“I’ve literally never been here once in my entire life,” I said, clearly lost. “Maybe over there, to buy weed once in the ‘90s (I pointed), but now it’s a what? An inspired sushi yoga factory?”
Then to East Colfax, The Highlands and downtown. Night quickly came, it was finally time for us to go home. It was a stay-in-your-city adventure, and well worth the price. Counting my pennies now, we saved over $50 just on the simple route we took, and barely touched a fraction of what’s still available in the books.
Looking through the passport again, I still have no idea what some of these places are. Looks like this is the gift that keeps on giving.