Beer Buzz: Colorado's Brewing Business

May 14 2012, 11:05 AM

We're often so busy sampling our state's brews—big, floral IPA's and fruity sours, to name a few—we forget to recognize the impact our precious suds have on Colorado's economy. The Centennial State's beer industry creates thousands of jobs and generates millions of dollars in revenue for the state. Thanks to a recent study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder Business Research Division for the Colorado Brewers Guild, we know a little more about those numbers.

In 2011, according to the study, Colorado craft brewers produced a whopping one million barrels of beer. And although that figure is still dwarfed by gigantic operations like Coors—which produces 11 million barrels of beer annually at its Golden facility alone—the industry is growing rapidly with new breweries and increased production. Does that mean that brewing will be as important to our economy as skiing? The answer: Maybe.

139 and 75 breweries

At 5280, we often joke that there is a brewery in every neighborhood. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not for long: There are 139 licensed craft breweries in the state, and there are another 75 breweries in the planning stages. Regardless of when—or if—the businesses ever tap a keg, those newbies will represent more than a 50 percent increase in breweries.

6,600 jobs

Colorado brewers account for at least 6,600 beer-related jobs. "Craft brewers are on a double-digit growth trajectory," says John Carlson, executive director of the Craft Brewers Guild. "And the potential for new job creation is expected to climb even higher." And of 6,600 jobs, about 64 percent involve craft beer, meaning that when it comes to employment Coors isn't doing all the heavy lifting. 

Eight percent of craft breweries

Eight percent of the craft breweries in the U.S. are located in Colorado, which, the study points out, is remarkable considering less than two percent of the country lives in the Centennial State. Colorado ranks second among total number of craft breweries, third in breweries per capita, and first in draft beer consumption. (18.5 percent of the beer Coloradans consume is on draft.) 

What does that mean? Colorado is a beer state and we've known it for a long time. Mile High bars tend to have at least one Colorado craft beer on tap. Neighborhood liquor stores have shelves reserved for Colorado craft beer. And, according to this study, Colorado's craft beer industry has yet to hit its stride. Which is good news for business. This is even better news for the everyday beer drinker who will benefit from the friendly competition. Cheerleading aside, though, we do have some concerns. Could the already saturated market become, ahem, diluted? Are there too many breweries in Colorado? Can you ever have too much beer?  

—Photo courtesy of New Belgium Brewing