Beer Man

Colorado's Largest In-State-Only Brewery Finally Pushes Over the Border

Kansas has welcomed Dry Dock Brewing.
Kansas has welcomed Dry Dock Brewing. Dry Dock Brewing
For the entirety of its nearly seventeen-year existence, Dry Dock Brewing has only sold beer in one place: Colorado. That includes the years after the then-tiny brewery won the prestigious Small Brewery of the Year award at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009; the era when its Bligh's Barleywine Ale was a beer hunter's rare gem; and even the period after Dry Dock opened its huge production and packaging facility in Aurora, helping propel its flagship Apricot Blonde onto almost every shelf in the state.

In fact, until last month, Dry Dock was by the far the largest local craft brewery that still only distributed beer within the square boundaries of this state (Dry Dock is the tenth-largest craft brewery in Colorado).

But that changed in mid-April, when the first cases of beers like Apricot Blonde, Drift Awhile IPA and Blueberry Smoothie were trucked across Colorado's eastern border into beer-thirsty Kansas.

"We are so close as neighbors, and so many people from Kansas come to Colorado on vacation," says Kevin DeLange, who founded the brewery in Aurora in 2005 with Michelle Reding. Many visit Colorado's tasting rooms and stock up on beer to take back with them. "So it really made sense," he adds.

DeLange credits Dry Dock's new-ish sales director, Ryan Call, with helping push the company. Call is a Kansas native who worked in the beer industry there before joining Left Hand Brewing in 2012 and working his way up to national sales manager. "He made us feel really comfortable with it," DeLange says.
click to enlarge Dry Dock Brewing co-owners Michelle Reding and Kevin DeLange. - DRY DOCK BREWING
Dry Dock Brewing co-owners Michelle Reding and Kevin DeLange.
Dry Dock Brewing
And while the brewery isn't rushing to expand into more states, DeLange says it will probably happen, starting with Missouri so that the entire Kansas City area — which is split between the two states — can have access to Dry Dock beers. Iowa is also high on the list, since that is where DeLange and Reding are from.

"We have people from all over the country who ask for our beer," he says. "Liquor stores and bars and restaurants have been asking for a long time, too." At one point, the brewery was getting two requests a week from wholesalers around the country. "But we've always just said, 'Nope, we'll stick to Colorado.'"

That remained the case even as dozens of smaller — sometime much smaller — breweries in Colorado opened up markets close by in Arizona, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas, or even in specific destinations across the country, like New York City, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco.

"We were proud of it," he points out. But the reason behind staying in Colorado was simply because Dry Dock's sales continued to grow here by double digits in most years. These days, sales are still good  — especially since Dry Dock has expanded its lineup into hard seltzers and other boozy beverages — but the growth has slowed, partially because so many out-of-state breweries have come to Colorado.

But the expansion into Kansas wasn't predicated on that, DeLange says. It was more because of how enthusiastic Kansas consumers and businesses were about the beer. "Michelle and Ryan and I were out there for a a week, and almost every account knew who we were. It was fantastic," he says.
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