Chowdermeister festival pairs chowder, Jägermeister in Denver

Get your ponchos ready, because a combination chowder and Jägermeister festival is coming to Denver next month.

Chowdermeister will test stomachs and sanity when it lands at 1611 Raleigh St., near Sloan’s Lake, on Oct. 16. The festival began as a joke — a Twitter poll asking which food and drink combination was the most vile — but is now a real-deal, sponsored street event.

Jägermeister — the syrupy, licorice-tinged German digestif — and chowder will be served parallel to each other, but not mixed together into any unholy recipes, the fest-founders promised. Still, we have questions.

“Honestly, I feel like this is what Denver needs right now — not another sanitized celebration of food as a personality,” said co-founder Jake Browne, who condemned a Denver food scene that he says praises “lukewarm, $75 chicken sliders” on Instagram but doesn’t support independent, Colorado-born concepts or chefs.

Chowdermeister founders Browne and Samantha Taylor are serial entrepreneurs, having launched more creative, culture-scrambling events than most people have attended in recent years.

In addition to becoming the first cannabis critic at a major news organization (as part of The Denver Post’s Cannabist website), Browne, a former model, has also produced live and virtual comedy events, such as the nationally touring Cards Against Humanity-style game show, Uncalled Four, while appearing on TV, in documentaries and on podcasts and writing tabletop gaming columns.

With Taylor, he created The Grow-Off cannabis competition, a national THC flower contest, and Fizz Fight, which he and Taylor billed as the country’s first hard seltzer festival; competition from a better-funded latecomer based in New York compelled them to walk away from the event. Taylor also co-founded a pioneering cannabis seed company, as well as HempBox, a first-of-its-kind subscription service dedicated to hemp.

If you go

Chowdermeister: A chowder and Jägermeister festival. Star local chefs cooking chowder, top bartenders pouring specialty cocktails and more. Oct. 16, time TBD. 21 and up. 1611 Raleigh St. near Sloan’s Lake. Tickets: $25-$50, or $250 for VIP. Proceeds benefit The Gathering Place. 720-371-2860 or chowdermeister.com

The ravages of the pandemic either hard-paused or killed a few of their projects, sending them to a sleepy Cap Hill taqueria one summer afternoon to lick their wounds. After some discussion, Browne hatched another idea.

“What’s one thing we could do that no one in their right mind would knock off?” he said. “We understand that culture vultures rule the skies of Denver, so how could we insulate ourselves with something that’s uniquely us — and that we could actually get people to show up to?”

Thus Chowdermeister was born, although potential early pairings included eggs and red wine, pickles and banana daiquiris, and olives and butterscotch. Food & Wine last week called it “horrendous,” while tongue-in-cheek begging, “Please, let it be the only” time the event happens.

But producers can’t just throw a $20,000 ad budget at it and expect it to be successful, Taylor said. There has to be heart behind it, which may sound odd given the ridiculous theme.

The event, which Taylor estimated will cost about $70,000, benefits The Gathering Place, a nonprofit that provides services for women, children and transgender people experiencing homelessness and poverty in the Denver area. Notable chefs will be there, such as Bar Dough owner and Food Network regular Carrie Baird, along with “Mythical Kitchen” host Josh Scherer and more to be announced.

“I felt it was my duty to the world to make Chowdermeister a reality,” Scherer said in a statement. “Against all odds, and against God herself, I’ve spent years cultivating an audience uniquely suited to the combination of party liquor and dairy-based soup, and they came through.”

The city’s best bartenders will also be there, Browne and Taylor promised, crafting creative cocktails; think bloody mary, aperol spritz and Old-Fashioned recipes, but subbed with Jägermeister. The eponymous liqueur brand also donated machines, coolers and “a plethora of merch,” Browne said, adding that he was surprised and pleased that they didn’t sue the nascent idea out of existence.

Other festivities include snapping pics with the as-yet-unnamed Chowdermeister mascot, a half-clam, half-buck abomination that will be squirting Jägermeister out of its palm throughout the afternoon, or clam juice “if you’re bad.”

“I was connected to a New York City costume maker who wanted $15,000 for a custom Chowdermeister mascot, so we just Googled around and found a giant clam with a sailor’s hat,” Taylor said. “I figured we could throw antlers on this guy and bring down the eyebrows to make him more menacing. The idea being like (Philadelphia Flyers mascot) Gritty, who is the best mascot, because I’m from Philly.”

“We’ve got some good names coming in for it,” Browne said. “Chowdy Doody. Clambi. Rowdy Chowdy. We’re holding a Twitter vote to decide it.”

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