Beer Man

Colorado breweries employ 5,000, contribute $826 million to the state economy

Colorado's 232 craft brewers employed 5,014 people and drove an economic engine worth $826 million last year, according to a study released Tuesday by the Colorado Brewers Guild. That's up from 179 breweries, 4,493 jobs and $704 million the year before.

In fact, the industry is growing so fast that the study is already out of date. But that's okay with guild director John Carlson -- because the numbers, compiled by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, provide a snapshot into why beer matters.

See also: Ten brand-new Colorado canned beers to look forward to in 2014

"It's important for the state and...for the country, because we make something," he said during a Tuesday conference at Falling Rock Taphouse. People are moving to Colorado and bring their business here because of craft beer, he added; tourists are visiting and returning because of it; neighborhoods are being revitalized.

"We are pioneers," he said. "The rest of the country wants to be like us."

The depth and breadth of the industry was evident at yesterday's study-release event, which was attended by a couple of dozen people involved in the industry, including representatives of the oldest craft brewer in the state, Boulder Beer, as well as one of the fifty or so breweries in planning for 2014 and 2015, Colorado Sky Brewery.

This was the second time that the guild has released statewide economic numbers on craft brewing, and Carlson says the organization plans to do so every two years.

Other stats that were part of the study (which was based on numbers from last fall -- numbers that have already expanded) include:

*More than 50 percent of existing Colorado breweries expect to grow by more than 20 percent in 2014.

*About 93 percent of Colorado's brewers gave money to charity last year, while 91 percent participated in fundraising events. Altogether, they gave more than $1.4 million.

*The economic impact of Colorado breweries was $446 million two years ago, meaning it has nearly doubled since then.

*Only about a quarter of the breweries that responded to the survey distribute outside of Colorado.

*The study doesn't account for the jobs and economic impact that has been created by companies that supply breweries or help them distribute and sell their beer.

*A majority of the state's craft breweries formed within the past decade.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan

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