Beer Man

Craft Brewing Had a $3 Billion Economic Effect in Colorado

Colorado toasted beer to the tune of $3 billion in 2016.
Colorado toasted beer to the tune of $3 billion in 2016. Brandon Marshall
Did you buy a pint of beer at your local brewery in 2016? Then you can be proud to boost the Colorado economy. Craft breweries and brewpubs nationwide contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016. That's a lot of pints, and it's an increase of 21.7 percent from just two years earlier, according to the Boulder-based Brewers Association. Craft brewers "were also responsible for more than 456,373 full-time equivalent jobs, a 7.5 percent increase from 2014, with 128,768 jobs located directly at breweries and brewpubs, including serving staff at brewpubs," the BA said.

Colorado, not surprisingly, was a big part of that. This state's 320 or so breweries (at the end of 2016) generated $3.07 billion in economic impact last year. That means that although Colorado ranked only sixth in the nation when it came to total dollars — falling behind the much larger states of California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and Florida — it was first when it came to economic impact per person, at $764.34.

The numbers "validate what Colorado is doing and what we have been doing since 1979," when Boulder Beer, the state's first craft brewery, opened, says Steve Kurowski, spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild. "Now, 36 years later, we are a maturing industry making a real difference.... Jobs are being created, communities are being revitalized. This is super-unique and ownable for Colorado to be a leader for craft beer."

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Jonathan Shikes
Over the past few years, the Guild, in conjunction with the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business, has conducted its own study of craft beer's economic impacts. But the CU study asked different questions and used different methodologies than the Brewers Association, meaning it often came up with different results. In addition, fewer breweries participated in the Guild's study, Kurowski says.

As a result, the Guild has decided to start working with the BA, a nonprofit trade group, to conduct its economic analysis in the future. In doing so, it will be able to ask specific questions with the BA's help.

The Guild is also looking into conducting other studies, including one that would examine the economic effects of beer tourism — something that hasn't been done before. "Collecting data is expensive and labor-intensive," Kurowski says. "But we know that some people are coming here just to drink beer." Many more come for conventions, for skiing, concerts and football games, but those people are "finding craft beer while they are here." And those people are spending money at hotels and Airbnb lodgings and at restaurants, as well.

"Denver is an extremely accessible craft-beer city. People can visit multiple breweries with one stop, and these breweries are working together," Kurowski says. "We have breweries of all different kinds and looks doing world-class German lagers, world-class Belgian-style ales and world-class American IPAs. There are high-gravity beers, low-gravity beers. You can pretty much get whatever you want in Denver."
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes