West-side brewers form the Beermuda Triangle coalition in the face of increasing competition
Laura Vande Zande of Renegade Brewing.
Is Denver over-saturated with craft breweries? Not yet, but that doesn't mean a group of breweries on the city's west side aren't thinking about the future.
The breweries have watched as River North, on the other side of downtown, has evolved into one of Denver's primary craft-beer neighborhoods over the past year, and with more to come in RiNo: at least two start-up breweries are planning to join the five busy ones that already exist by this summer or fall, and Great Divide is purchasing land there as well.
Scott Witsoe of Wit's End Brewing.
"What we noticed as a group was that the RiNo district was receiving a large amount of media attention due to the recent opening of Epic, the planned opening of Great Divide and the planned opening of several new breweries," says Renegade Brewing co-owner Brian O'Connell. "Not that it is a competition, and we certainly do not want to detract from the success of RiNo in any way, we just want to keep [this] district in people's minds and let people know we are a great neighborhood to brewery-hop as well."
"My sales were up 25 percent last year, so I am not complaining," adds Strange Brewing co-founder Tim Myers. "But there are so many potential new breweries out there just for Denver metro. If we don't start standing out now, if we wait, it will be too late."
So in the coming months, Strange and Renegade will band together with their west-side neighbors -- Wit's End, Breckenridge, TRVE, Black Sky and possibly the Colorado Cider Company -- on a coordinated marketing and outreach effort.
They call their area -- between Lincoln Street and Federal Boulevard, Alameda and Colfax avenues -- the Beermuda Triangle (although it's more of a square).
"We see Denver booming as a craft-beer city, and the breweries are either starting to cluster or to spread out," says Renegade taproom manager Laura Vande Zande. "A lot of them are going to RiNo, which is exciting. But we want people to remember our area."
Vande Zande, who has been charged with coordinating the Beermuda Triangle, points out that her breweries are also part of a more veteran crew in Denver. Breckenridge is the largest -- and one of the oldest -- breweries in town, while Wit's End, Renegade and Strange opened more than three years ago, which is an eon in new-brewery terms.
"We want people to know how close we are to each other, and that they can bike around here just like they can bike around in RiNo," she says.
Strange, which opened five years ago, kicked off Denver's third wave of craft breweries, and did very well in the beginning, Myers says, "because we were one of the only games in town. We proved that the smaller business model could be profitable. So we'll just keep coming up with new beers and new ideas and reasons for customers to keep coming back."
The breweries threw out a lot of ideas at their first meeting, which took place a few weeks ago, including a "Backstage Pass" discount book and a logo. But any effort is likely to cost money -- something that small breweries usually don't have a lot of.
The Beermuda breweries will get together on February 25 at Renegade to make a black saison, aged on rum, that will be tapped as part of the upcoming Collaboration Festival on March 22; the festival, organized by the Colorado Brewers Guild, will include collaborations by dozens of local and out-of-state breweries.
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter