May was a rough month for craft beer: Three different breweries in three different Front Range cities closed or announced that they would close soon. Until then, only six breweries had closed statewide in 2019: Ute Pass Brewing in Woodland Park, Lost Highway Brewing in Centennial, Fermaentra in Denver, UTurn BBQ in Lafayette, The Brew Pub & Kitchen in Durango, and 1876 Ale Works in Colorado Springs (which closed two weeks after it opened).
But in May, Fate Brewing in Boulder and 38 State Brewing in Littleton both announced that they would close by the end of the month. Those announcements were followed by the dramatic-sounding seizure of Ironworks Brewery & Pub in Lakewood for non-payment of taxes. Has the bubble burst for the craft-beer industry?
Not according to some readers, who have very specific reasons for the closings. Says Alex:
Fate sealed its fate by over-expanding without insulating against the possibility of unexpected holdups. Borrowed too much, unable to pay back, just some poor business decision-making in an attempt to drive the gravy train too fast.
Ironworks got its karma for being rude!
Others have broader explanations. Says John:
Borrowing on hope instead of business fundamentals will most likely get you!
Younger generations are drinking less, so it is important for us to have good, non-alcoholic alternatives.
More beer is good, but it must be good beer.
But Kurt concludes:
Oh, please kill this trend already. Craft beers usually suck and there's a self-brew bar on EVERY corner. Over it.
Keep reading for more on the closings.
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In his assessment of the closures, Colorado Beerman Jonathan Shikes suggests that the craft-beer bubble is far from bursting. Fifteen new breweries opened in the state in 2019 — and there are another fifty under construction, according to Stephen Adams, who tracks Colorado brewery openings and closings for the website Brewerylist.com. In 2018, there were 67 openings and twenty closures, Adams says. The primary reason for these closures has been rising rents, although several breweries were simply sold to new owners. In 2017, there were thirty openings and fifteen closings, while in 2016, there were 42 openings and seven closings.
Nationwide, 1,049 breweries opened in 2018, while 219 closed. In 2017, those numbers were 997 and 165, according to the Brewers Association. All told, there were 7,450 breweries operating at the end of 2018 — and there are already more than 8,000 now. In Colorado, there are around 400 operating breweries currently, depending on how you count them.
So, no, the bubble has not burst — at least not yet. But according to Shikes, that could change as rents continue to rise and dozens of spots lose the relatively low-cost leases they signed five years ago.
What do you think of the state of Colorado's craft-beer industry? Post your thoughts in a comment or email email@example.com.