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About four years ago, Groupon project manager Bryce Forester was sitting at the bar inside a LoDo brewery, remarking at how much he liked the craft beer he was drinking, but complaining that it would probably be a year or more before he’d make the drive there again from his home in Platt Park. For Forester, it was a common lament. “I’m a fan of beer,” he says. “I go to all these breweries, but there are so many to try, I know I’ll never get back. So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get these beers delivered to me?’”
Unlike so many seemingly brilliant ideas hatched over drinks, this one stuck in Forester’s head until the next morning. And by late April 2017, he and his brother, a product manager at a mobile banking startup, had solved the issue by creating Craft Alley, a beer service that brings the best metro area brews directly to Denverites’ doors.
At first, Craft Alley was simply a craft-focused alcohol delivery company, where you can place one-off orders for beer, wine, and booze. But within six months, the Forester Bros. had implemented the subscription service that really sets the company apart. Budding craft connoisseurs sign up and submit their personal beer preferences—malty versus hoppy, dark versus light, sours versus Belgian-style—and the Craft Alley crew curates a delivery of four 32-ounce aluminum crowlers, picked to your taste, from the tap lists of more than 40 independent metro area brewers (from 4 Noses and Dry Dock to Weldwerks and Wibby)—many of whom don’t normally package and sell their product outside of tap rooms. The customized, four-crowler “beer drops” cost $44.99 each and can be scheduled weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
“Customers can buy anything on the tap list,” says Forester. “But if you’re not familiar with a lot of the beers, we rate them and recommend the highest rated beers to your flavor profile. We make sure you don’t get the same beer twice. And when adding beers, we’re always asking the questions we would ask as customers: ‘What’s new? What’s good?’”
While Craft Alley was created as a convenience for consumers, the service has become a godsend during the COVID-19 lockdown—not only for drinkers but also for many local brewers who have struggled to get their product to market with tap rooms closed or at reduced capacity. Since Craft Alley already had its online interface up and running, it didn’t face the awkward transition period that many breweries suffered as they scrambled to convert in-house business to web sales. Forester said both Craft Alley subscriptions and one-off deliveries have seen a significant bump since March; the company has also added 10 more local breweries to its roster.
Moreover, Forester has noticed that, since the onset of the pandemic, this city of beer drinkers is going out of their way to support Denver’s craft industry. Even though Craft Alley now fills orders for 12- and 16-ounce cans, the company has witnessed a significant shift with customers requesting 32-ounce crowlers, even though they’re more expensive and harder to drink in one sitting.
“Many people don’t want to drink 32 ounces at a time,” says Forester. “You can tell they are choosing to support their local brewery despite their tastes.”