Three of Colorado's fastest-growing craft breweries -- Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, Upslope Brewing in Boulder, and Crazy Mountain Brewing in Edwards -- have all recently released year-end numbers as well as projections for 2014 that should see each of them reaching an annual production of 15,000 barrels or more. And that will result in their graduation from microbreweries to regional breweries.
It's an astonishing pace for the three breweries, which were founded in 2005, 2008 and 2010, respectively.
Although the "regional" designation is a classification noted only by the Boulder-based Brewers Association, it carries a certain distinction since only a small percentage of beer makers in the nation make 15,000 barrels of beer or more per year. In 2012, for instance, only 97 of the 2,347 breweries existing then were regional.
"It's a title that doesn't really mean anything, but it is a landmark and it signifies a rate of production that is rewarding to hit," says Crazy Mountain co-founder Kevin Selvy.
Brewers Association director Paul Gatza adds that the designation is "a reflection of the general point in which the businesses take a few steps towards a different business structure. Of course, each brewery blazes its own trail, and 15,000 barrels is a number not codified in government tax policy."
But when brewers get to that size, he continues, they start to "look at issues such as personnel structure to address some or all of the following questions: Do we need a dedicated finance person or CFO? What is our sales team structure going to look like? What is our structure for addressing wholesaler selection in new markets? How do we get our beer into chain retailers? What is the next step in our capacity development?"
Dry Dock, which opened a massive new production facility at the beginning of 2013 to complement its tasting room on the other side of Aurora, quadrupled production last year, from 3,273 barrels in 2012 to 12,000 barrels in 2013.
And another big expansion is coming in the form of additional tanks that will allow Dry Dock and its owners, Kevin Delange and Michelle Reding, to increase production far beyond the 15,000 number (although not outside Colorado until 2015). Eventually, the 30,000-square-foot warehouse could make as much as 110,000 barrels per year.
Upslope, meanwhile, also added a production facility in 2013 and a second tasting room in Boulder. The result was a 109 percent increase that resulted in 12,000 barrels last year. The new facility now has eleven 120-barrel tanks that help Upslope keep up with demand and will help it move beyond 15,000 barrels in 2014.
New tanks are on their way, however, and Upslope recently announced that it will venture outside of Colorado for the first time, selling beer in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico, as well as a few other states.
The youngest brewery in the group, Crazy Mountain, celebrated its fourth anniversary by revealing that it grew from 1,200 barrels in its first year to 12,000 in 2013. Founded in 2010 by Selvy and his wife, Marisa, it has expanded three times and now employs 33 people and distributes its beer in fourteen states and three countries.
Selvy says the brewery will expand again in 2014, although he isn't sure yet what direction that expansion will take. Still, he expects to brew at least 15,000 barrels by the end of the year, and possibly as much as 20,000 barrels.
Colorado already has at least ten craft breweries that make more than 15,000 barrels per year, including New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Odell, Left Hand, Breckenridge, Great Divide, Boulder Beer, Fort Collins Brewery, Avery and Ska.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan