Colorado Crazy Craft Beer Markets: Where is the Boom and the Bust?

July 24, 2019

Colorado Crazy Craft Beer Markets:  Where is the Boom and the Bust?

Colorado’s history is one of booms and busts. First it was gold, then it was silver, then it was oil, and now … ? It’s beer. Lager, ale, stout, or sour — it doesn’t matter. If it’s Colorado-brewed beer, it’s booming.

At the CCBHOF, we work hard to ensure this particular boom keeps on keeping on. One method is keeping the Colorado craft-beer-loving public and its brewers informed of all the golden (and amber, and red, and weiss, and dark malty brown … ) riches our state is brewing.

Our Craft Beer Directory for the 2019 Gold Rush reveals more than 500 of them — plus a few interesting numbers. But before we get to those, there are a few things to note.

First, because Colorado Craft Breweries are so numerous, we break down the gold mines (microbreweries) into 10 different regions:

  • Boulder/Longmont
  • Central Mountains & Chaffee County
  • Colorado Springs
  • Denver
  • North Central including Ft. Collins, Greeley, Loveland
  • North East Colorado
  • Pueblo & Southeast Colorado
  • South Suburban Metro Denver
  • Western Slope-Northwest
  • Western Slope

 

Second, by no means exhaustive, our list is informed by a variety of sources — craft industry bibles like the Drinkers Guides, the Denver Business Journal, and the Denver Post, as well as the Colorado Brewers Guild and Brewers Association. In all, we identify 512 locations that brew and serve their own fermented beverages. That can include taprooms, microbreweries, meaderies, brew pubs, and craft brewers.  We don’t include distilleries.

 

Admittedly, our data isn’t perfect. Our aim is to visit every location in Colorado but, as any true aficionado knows, beer-drinking road trips do not (and should not) happen in fast fashion. We believe in enjoying beer; not inhaling it and hitting the gas to get to the next brewery. As such, we don’t confirm brewery status.

 

And while we fervently embrace and support independents, it would do a disservice to all brewers and the folks who love them to ignore the millions of barrels of beer brewed and served by the 800-pound gorillas in the room — big boys like AB and Coors, and chains such as CB Potts and Rock Bottom.

 

All that said, let’s take a look at what we found when comparing data from January 2017 and January 2019:

  • No Surprises
    • Denver is the largest market in Colorado for craft brewers, with about 143
    • The second largest is Boulder/Longmont, with 83
    • Third largest is North Central, with 73
    • Colorado Springs and South Suburban Denver tied for fourth, with 48 each.
    • The lowest numbers are in Northeast or Pueblo & Southeast, with 12.
  • Surprises
    • The fastest-growing regions for craft brewers were South Suburban Metro Denver, which grew 33%, and Colorado Springs, which grew 26%.
    • The only region that shrank was Western Slope -Northwest, which lost one.
    • Even the largest regions grew between 13.7% and 17.7%. Saturated? Not yet.

TAKEAWAY
There is no question that in the largest markets along the front range, from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs, the craft beer business is exceptionally competitive. You need great beer, a great atmosphere, and great service to succeed and differentiate yourself. In short, step up your gold-panning game, or … bust.






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