If you're a regular here at AmericanCraftBeer.com, you are well aware of the craft beer industry's massive growth over the last decade...you have seen this country's taste in beer change profoundly with more Americans than ever moving away from the mass-produced lagers they grew up with and embracing craft beer! The demand for serious beer has never been stronger and the growth of start-up breweries reflects that.
The Boulder, Colorado based Brewers Association claims that there were nearly 2,000 craft breweries operating nationwide last year. That's the most this country's has seen since the 1800's! Craft beer sales grew by 15 percent in the first six months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.
This explosion of interest in American craft beer has lead to the emergence of cities known to be havens for the start-up brewer. One such city is Denver, whose legendary brewing culture and quirky state laws have created ideal conditions for start-up breweries.
Dan Frosch details these conditions in his recent New York Times piece entitled, Craft Brewing Finds a Welcoming Atmosphere.
According to Mr. Frosch, Colorado's alcohol laws, some of which date back to the Prohibition era, have indirectly (and ironically) served to benefit the small craft brewer.
Colorado is one of a small number of states that allow convenience stores to sell only low-alcohol beer (maximum 3.2 percent by weight). Supermarket chains like Safeway and King Soopers are permitted to sell full strength beer at a single branch statewide.
This allows independent liquor stores — who happily sell full-strength craft beer from local breweries — to thrive. Denver brewers can also haul kegs of their latest pale ales, coffee stouts and other creations to a seemingly endless selection of city bars to serve on tap.
The supermarkets have tried to have these old laws changed but with little success as all efforts have been defeated in the Colorado legislature. With these laws remaining in place Denver's craft brewing industry continues to grow and flourish as Mr. Frosch details in his piece...
The Colorado craft brewing industry says it would be impossible for chain stores to sufficiently feature the ever-growing array of craft products. And it has a powerful ally in Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, an old brewer himself, who helped found Denver's Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988. "The bottom line is that this is one of the fastest growing industries in the state, and we don't want to see it change," said Steve Kurowski, a spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Mr. Frosch explains another Colorado law that benefits Denver's craft brewer.
"Much like wineries, Colorado breweries can also serve their product in their tasting rooms without having to offer food, which sharply cuts costs for fledgling brewers, leaving them time to concentrate on beer making."
So Denver's a magnet of sorts right now and a great place to be for craft beer entrepreneurs. The region's stars have aligned and good things are happening for the city, its people and its beer!