Beer Man

How Many Breweries Does Denver Have? And Does It Really Matter?

Woods Boss Brewing is the most recent to open a taproom in Denver.
Woods Boss Brewing is the most recent to open a taproom in Denver. Jonathan Shikes
How many breweries does Denver have? People ask me that question all the time, and I don't have a good answer. Why? Because it's complicated.

Some breweries have two locations where they brew and serve beer, while others have two locations, but only one with a taproom that's open to the public. Some make beer in Denver, but at someone else’s brewery, while still more call themselves Denver breweries, but they're technically located outside the city limits. The City of Denver defers to the state on the matter, and the state doesn’t take a hardline approach on addresses as long as the brewery is in compliance with its rules and regulations.

Here are a few of the specific ambiguities. Both Renegade and TRVE Brewing have two brew houses in two locations, but each company has only one location open to the public. Should these be considered one brewery or two? Denver Beer Co. and Blue Moon, meanwhile, have two Denver breweries, each with a taproom. But maybe a single brewing company should only be counted once, no matter how many locations each one has.

Comrade Brewing, Copper Kettle Brewing, Creede Brewing, Bruz Beers and River North Brewery are all technically located outside of the city limits, meaning that their permits and occupancy had to be granted by a different government agency. But the Colorado Department of Revenue, which licenses breweries, lists all five with Denver addresses. So who gets to claim them — the city or a nearby county?

Then there are the gypsy breweries. The Larimer, 14er Brewing, Good River Beer, Dive Bar Beer, Rustica Brewing and Burgundian Brewing all have beer-making licenses in Denver, but they don’t have taprooms and they actually brew their beer on someone else’s equipment and at someone else’s brewery. A few of these are planning to open taprooms in Denver, but those locations are still under construction. Do we count them?

Great Divide makes its beers at one location, then trucks it to another location to ferment. Both of these locations have taprooms, though. How are we supposed to count that? Crooked Stave, on the other hand, makes its beer at one location and serves it at another. Is that two or one?

And finally, Sleeping Giant Brewing contract-brews beers from two dozen different companies, but doesn’t make any of its own beers or operate a taproom. Does that make it a brewery?

Does any of this matter? Probably not that much. Then again, numbers do show up in studies and in magazine articles — lots and lots of magazine articles about the highest density of breweries and city-versus-city beer stats. So maybe it matters from a pride standpoint? If that's the case, then we need a number, and since I can't get one from any of the higher authorities, I'm going to make my own decisions on what counts and what doesn't.

Here we go. If we only list breweries within the city limits with at least one taproom open to the public, there are 55 breweries. This doesn’t account for second locations, and it doesn’t account for gypsy breweries.

But that doesn't seem fair. So, let's add in the six gypsy breweries with Denver addresses and state licenses, and we’re up to 61 total breweries. Now let's also add in the five that have Denver addresses but are monitored by a different government. They didn't choose the borders that make up these no-man's-land zones. Now we're at 66.

Want to get dicey? Add the second locations for Denver Beer Co., Great Divide and Blue Moon, and we're at 69. (Although Great Divide only brews beer at one location, it has licenses at both, and since they truck their beer to the second one for packaging, I am counting the second location, as well). Then bring in the manufacturing-only, non-taproom locations — each of which has a separate state license — for Sleeping Giant, TRVE and Renegade. After all, they're brewing beer, even if we can't watch. That brings us to 72.

Seventy-two! That's a lot of breweries, and I think it's the fairest way of accounting for Denver's beer power. There's a very good chance that I'm missing something or that I made a mistake in how I'm counting. In addition, this list will change within weeks when the next Denver brewery opens. But for now, I'm sticking with it. Oh, and if 72 isn't enough for you, then you should know that an additional twelve breweries are in the works.

And finally, if you don't believe me, scroll down to see my final list. Cheers.

Great Divide has two locations, but are they both breweries? - WESTWORD
Great Divide has two locations, but are they both breweries?
Alpine Dog Brewing
Baere Brewing
Banded Oak Brewing
Beryl’s Beer Company
Bierstadt Lagerhaus
Black Sky Brewing
Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales
Black Shirt Brewing
Blue Moon Brewing (Coors Field)
Blue Moon Brewing (RiNo)
Brewability Lab
Briar Common Brewery & Restaurant
Bruz Beers
Burgundian Brewing
Call to Arms Brewing
Cerebral Brewing
Chain Reaction Brewing
ChopHouse Denver
Comrade Brewing
Copper Kettle Brewing
Crazy Mountain Brewing
Creede Brewing (now called J. Moe's Brewpub)
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Company
De Steeg Brewing
Declaration Brewing
Deep Draft Brewing
Denver Beer Co (Platte Street)
Denver Beer Co (Sunnyside)
Diebolt Brewing
Dive Bar Beer
Epic Brewing
Factotum Brewhouse
Fermaentra Brewing
Fiction Beer Company
14er Brewing
Goldspot Brewing
Good River Beer
Grandma’s House
Great Divide Brewing (Ballpark)
Great Divide Brewing (RiNo)
Hogshead Brewery
Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project
Jagged Mountain Brewery
Little Machine Beer
Lowdown Brewery + Restaurant
Mockery Brewing
Our Mutual Friend Brewing
Pints Pub
Platt Park Brewing
Prost Brewing
Ratio Beerworks
Renegade Brewing (taproom)
Renegade Brewing (manufacturing only)
River North Brewery
Rock Bottom Brewing
Rustica Brewing
Seedstock Brewing
Sleeping Giant Brewing
Spangalang Brewing
Station 26 Brewing
Strange Craft Beer
10 Barrel Brewing
The Larimer
Tivoli Brewing
TRVE Brewing (taphouse)
TRVE Brewing (manufacturing only)
Vine Street Pub & Brewery
Wit’s End Brewing
Woods Boss Brewing
Wynkoop Brewing
Zuni Street Brewing
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes