Colorado's oldest microbrewery has seen a lot of change in its forty-year history, a lot of ups and downs, and now Boulder Beer Company will have to take a new path just to stay in business.
By the end of the year, the brewery will cease packaging and selling beer throughout its multi-state distribution region, including here in Colorado, and operate only as a brewpub out of its longtime home at 2880 Wilderness Place in Boulder. As a result, Boulder Beer will have to lay off twenty of its fifty staff members, including brewers, sales reps, packagers and more. It will also sell its canning and bottling lines and mothball its fifty-barrel brewing system.
Suffice it to stay, it's been a tough day at Boulder Beer, says spokeswoman Tess McFadden, who has been with the company for twenty years, but isn't sure whether she will be around come January. "There's a lot that's up in the air right now, but there's a chunk of staff that won't have a place anymore," she notes.
McFadden says that the brewery's ownership group, which is led by longtime Boulder restaurant and brewery industry investor Gina Day, looked at a wide variety of options, but felt that this was the most viable decision, based on how competitive the craft-beer market has become — especially for packaging breweries.
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“Boulder Beer has been part of my life for close to thirty years, as it has been for so many of our loyal friends and patrons, and we all want to see it live on," Day said in a statement. “Times have changed and change is hard, but...our friends will still be able to enjoy our beers in the brewpub, and by brewing in small batches, have a wider variety of options on the ever-rotating specialty taps. We’re celebrating our milestone fortieth anniversary this year and look forward to furthering our legacy in Boulder and the industry.”
McFadden says the year started well for Boulder Beer, which benefited in Colorado from the new law that allows grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, but that things declined rapidly after that. "We are exactly the wrong size," she adds, pointing out that the brewery is too big to just distribute in Colorado but too small to compete as a regional brewery, which is what the owners have been attempting.
Over the years, Boulder Beer has had a couple of different locations, names and ownership groups, but this may be the first time that the brewery hasn't packaged in its history, as even the founders were bottling out of their famed goat shed back in 1979. Boulder Beer's most well-known beers over the years have included Planet Porter, Buffalo Gold, Mojo, Hazed & Infused and Shake.
Several other Colorado brewpubs have ceased packaging over the past couple of years — notably, Wynkoop Brewing in Denver, as well as Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder. Soon Boulder Beer will live up to its name, brewing beer in Boulder — for only Boulder.