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Once the startups of Colorado’s craft beer community, some of the state’s most successful brands are now putting their malted barley where their mouths are, embarking on a wave of expansions at home and across the nation as the movement toward handcrafted suds drives demand skyward. Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Boulder-based Brewers Association, hopes new and expanding breweries will help her constituency claim 20 percent of the U.S. market by 2020. “We’re only at eight percent now,” she says. Colorado’s “entrebrewneurs” ranked third in the country for production in 2013, with 1.4 million barrels. But with most of these big-name breweries expanding in-state, Colorado will soon be tapping on the door of the number two spot: We’re coming for ya, California.
2013 production (in barrels): 119,000
The pioneers of canned craft beer are at the forefront of another trend: Western breweries expanding eastward. In late 2012, Oskar Blues opened a 30,000-square-foot facility and tasting room in Brevard, North Carolina, that mirrors its Longmont headquarters. This past fall, it added a 145-acre farm and bike park called Reeb Ranch (after its spin-off business, Reeb Cycles) down the road. Fresh product and improved distribution to the East were major motivations as Oskar Blues looks to extend its current reach of 38 states.
2013 production: 790,000
There’s something in the water in North Carolina. New Belgium broke ground in Asheville in May on a 133,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room overlooking the French Broad River. Fermentation and bright tanks start arriving from Germany this month, with liftoff slated for late 2015. The company believes East Coast migration is vital to growing its brand nationally, and the project will also reduce the eco-conscious brewery’s shipping footprint. Asheville’s beer culture, comparable lifestyle to Fort Collins, and, yes, pristine water will make a perfect pairing.
2013 production: 65,000
Breckenridge considered out-of-state expansion after multiple years of double-digit growth maxed out its Denver headquarters but decided its Colorado-bred brand was best preserved by staying home. A new $35 million “destination brewery,” which will immediately almost double annual production to 120,000 barrels (with room for 500,000), opens in April on a 12-acre campus in Littleton that includes an outdoor beer garden, music stage, hop field and vegetable garden, and access to the Mary Carter Trail bike path. The on-site Farmhouse Restaurant debuts in April, too.
2013 production: 37,000
The consistently packed tasting room on 22nd and Arapahoe isn’t going anywhere, but Great Divide’s ambitions certainly are. Set to open this spring, a $38 million facility in RiNo, near 35th Avenue and Brighton Boulevard, will expand its annual barrel count to 250,000 over the next 20 years (don’t miss the new Barrel Bar taproom). The rollout will launch a canning line—Lasso, Colette, Titan IPA, and a to-be-determined seasonal should be in stores by mid-2015—and increase warehouse space, including storage for whiskey and wine barrels to age specialty brews.
2013 production: 47,000
The big beers in Avery’s portfolio—the Reverend, Uncle Jacob’s Stout—require bigger digs. So the 22-year-old company broke ground on a $27 million facility in North Boulder last January, allowing the brewery to double annual production to 100,000 barrels (with room for growth) and meet existing demand—which was so strong, Avery had to curtail distribution to markets in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and more in 2011. (It has since returned to most of them.) The opening of the tasting room and restaurant is planned for next month.