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The 5280 Guide to Colorado Craft Beer

18 Events That Shaped Colorado’s Craft Beer Scene

From the end of Prohibition to the birth of the Great American Beer Festival, here’s an abbreviated historical timeline of the Centennial State’s 161-year-old beer industry.


1859: Rocky Mountain Brewery, Colorado’s first, is born.
1873: Adolph Coors Sr. and Jacob Schueler open the Golden Brewery; in 1880, Coors buys out Schueler and renames the business Adolph Coors Company
1916: The state goes dry. Prohibition hits the nation four years later.
1933: Prohibition ends! Drinkers rejoice.
1979: Colorado’s first microbrewery, Boulder Beer Company, opens.
1982: The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) launches in Boulder with 24 participating breweries (800 breweries poured in 2019).
1988: Governor-to-be John Hickenlooper co-founds the state’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Co.
1989: Odell Brewing Co. is established in Fort Collins.
1991: New Belgium Brewing opens, also in Fort Collins.
1995: The Colorado Brewers Guild is born to promote and protect the state’s craft brewing industry.
2002: Lyons’ Oskar Blues Brewery (est. 1999) pioneers craft beer in cans with Dale’s Pale Ale.
2005: The Brewers Association, a national industry advocacy organization, is founded in Boulder.
2015: CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective is founded when Oskar Blues connects a group of brewers to share resources and distribution networks, creating a model for other strategic partnerships in the beer industry.
2018: The Brewers Association eliminates the requirement that to qualify as “craft,” a brewery must make the majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beer—opening the door for seltzer.
2018: Ceria Brewing Co. debuts Colorado’s first THC-infused beer.
2019: On January 1, a 2016 law allowing the sale of full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores goes into effect
2019: Mergers, closings, and buyouts: Ska Brewing and Peach Street Distillers announce Ska Street Brewstillery, a brewery/distillery/restaurant in Boulder; Molson Coors Brewing Company shutters its Denver headquarters, rebranding as Molson Coors Beverage Company; New Belgium Brewing sells to Japan’s Kirin conglomerate.
2020: Boulder Beer Company closes its brewpub and production facility but continues distributing its existing beers through contract brewer Sleeping Giant Brewing Company.

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