Beer Man

The Ten Biggest Colorado Craft-Beer Stories of 2018

Weldwerks Brewing
Colorado's craft-beer industry found itself not just at one crossroads in 2018, but at a series of them — or maybe it was like a traffic circle with a thousand exits. Either way, there was a lot going on. While sales were slowing for some breweries, leading to closures in a few cases, they grew at others. And through it all, the state's beer makers never stopped innovating, whether it was with the food in their taprooms, intriguing new beer styles, or crazy ideas that set some of them apart. The year wrapped up with the impending change that will allow grocery and convenience stores to carry full-strength beer at all of their locations, something that will cause major industry changes in 2019. Whatever happens, though, the community of craft brewers followed a path that remained strong and grew more diverse over the past year — a path that was definitely sprinkled with glitter. Here are Colorado's top ten craft-beer stories from 2018, as picked by Westword's Beer Man:

Denver Beer Co.'s Arvada location teamed up with a restaurant operator to open a food truck inside the brewery's walls. - JONATHAN SHIKES
Denver Beer Co.'s Arvada location teamed up with a restaurant operator to open a food truck inside the brewery's walls.
Jonathan Shikes
Breweries Add Food Service
The majority of Colorado's 400 or so breweries are beer-only taprooms, which means that most rely on food trucks to help their customers lay a drinking base. But a growing number of breweries have decided to build their own kitchens or bring the food trucks in-house, financially or permanently — and in some cases, literally. Some of this has to do with their frustration with food trucks, while some of it is simply a way for the breweries to distinguish themselves from the competition or to provide additional revenue. Examples include Black Shirt Brewing in Denver and Wonderland Brewing in Broomfield, which both added kitchens; Station 26 Brewing, which now operates its own food truck; and Denver Beer Co.'s Arvada location, which teamed up with a restaurant operator to open a food truck inside the brewery. Others include Big Choice Brewing in Brighton and Downhill Brewing in Parker, which are both adding pizza kitchens, and Thirsty Monk, which offers customized boxed snacks that range from cheese and chicken salad to meatballs, pulled pork and smoked trout dip.

click to enlarge Chantel Columna (left), Tamir Danon and Ayana Coker own Novel Strand Brewing. - NOVEL STRAND BREWING
Chantel Columna (left), Tamir Danon and Ayana Coker own Novel Strand Brewing.
Novel Strand Brewing
Diversity Among Brewery Owners
Quietly (in most cases), slowly, and hopefully, steadily, Colorado's brewery owners and managers are becoming more diverse. Of course, "diversity" can mean different things to different people. This year in particular, however, saw an increase in the number of Latino owners — as well as what may be the first brewery with black ownership. Novel Strand Brewing, which includes both, opened in July. It was joined by Atrevida Brewing in Colorado Springs and Coal Mine Avenue Brewing in Littleton. These two Latino-owned businesses joined
Cheluna Brewing in Aurora, Lady Justice Brewing in Denver and Boggy Draw Brewing in Sheridan. Next year, Raices Brewing, near Mile High Stadium, and Jade Mountain Brewing will add to the group. "We want to make young Latinos and Latinas feel welcome," Jose Beteta of Raices Brewing told Westword in June. "We think it's something that will help the whole industry. This demographic that's not feeling included — they'll find out what craft is all about. Then they'll want to try more beers and visit other breweries.”

click to enlarge Ska Brewing was one of several large beer makers to introduce a packaged Brut IPA. - SKA BREWING
Ska Brewing was one of several large beer makers to introduce a packaged Brut IPA.
Ska Brewing
Bruts, Slushes, Milkshake IPAs, Oenobeers and Glitter...Lots of Glitter
In the wake of the New England-style IPA phenomenon that has swept the craft-beer industry over the past two years, breweries and beer fans have been keeping a close eye on other trends as they arise. One of the biggest from 2018 was brut IPA, which incorporates enzymes and different yeasts to create a dry finish and a light, bubbly carbonation with an effervescent mouthfeel like champagne. Fermaentra, Platt Park, Fiction and Verboten produced the first brut IPAs back in May, and by December, some much larger Colorado breweries, including New Belgium, Avery and Ska, had jumped on board with packaged versions of the style. But bruts weren't alone. Milkshake IPAs also hit Colorado in full force last year, as did sour slushes, sour rosés, glitter beers and wine-beer hybrids. That last style is championed by Liberati Osteria & Oenobeers, which opened in November serving gorgeous Italian food and palate-defying blends of beer and wine that owner Alex LIberati calls oenobeers. He's hoping to see more breweries try them.

Oskar Blues and the Growth of Canarchy
Colorado can lay claim to the birth of Oskar Blues and the beginning of the canned craft movement, but we're going to have to share Canarchy. That's the name that Oskar Blues and its financial backers at Fireman Capital Partners gave to the syndicate — or "collective," as they call it — that now includes not just the Longmont-based brewery and its locations in North Carolina and Texas, but six other breweries under its umbrella: Cigar City, Deep Ellum, Perrin Brewing, Three Weavers, Wasatch and Squatters. The goal of the group is to weather financial storms while maintaining a craft-beer mentality, though other breweries have expressed a wariness about Canarchy's rapid rise to become the ninth-largest brewery in the nation. Along the way last year, the group introduced a mixed twelve-pack with beers from multiple breweries, shared a large space at GABF, added an experimental brewpub in North Carolina, and, most recently, revealed that it would launch a new hard seltzer brand called Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water. Expect more, much more, from Canarchy in 2019.