From new styles and trends to hard seltzer and hard times, there was plenty of fascinating news from the world of beer and craft beer in 2019. But it was Colorado brewery closures and brewery downsizing, along with big moves and big lawsuits, that got the most attention from readers. Welcome to the jungle. Here are our ten most popular beer stories from the past twelve months:
"Coors Family Silent About Chicago Move, but You Can Bet They're Not Happy"
After 146 years in Colorado, Coors announced in late October that it would be moving its headquarters out of state, to Chicago. Although the massive Golden plant will stay (and possibly be remodeled), the news, from Coors's parent company, Molson Coors, shocked Colorado. Even more telling: No one from the Coors family spoke publicly about the change, including the fact that Pete Coors would be stepping down from his day-to-day role with the company. So, how is the family taking the news? For us, their silence speaks volumes.
"Colorado's First Seltzery Replaces Grand Lake Brewing in Arvada"
Hard seltzer was big in 2019. So big that even your grandma and your little sister know what a White Claw is. But local seltzers caught on as well. In Olde Town Arvada, the owners of Grand Lake Brewing decided to retire, turning over their space to sons Hunter and Warren Wood, who opened what may have been Colorado's first dedicated seltzery, ELVTD at 5280, serving a wide variety of flavors.
"Historic Boulder Beer Will Stop Canning, Downsize, Lay Off Twenty Staffers"
Colorado's oldest craft brewery has gone through many ups and downs since it was founded in a goat shed outside of Boulder in 1979, but the latest one was particularly heart-wrenching. In October, the brewery said that because of tough competition, it would have to lay off a third of its staff and stop packaging and distributing all of its beers, including hits and classics like Shake Chocolate Porter, Buffalo Gold and Mojo IPA. About a month later, the brewery was able to work out a deal with Sleeping Giant Brewing, which will now brew and package those beers, but it's still hard to watch the brewery and its staffers go through tough times.
"Colorado Brewery Closures Are Still Rare, Despite May Carnage"
More breweries closed nationwide in 2019 than in any other year, but many, many more opened. Colorado also saw its share of closures in a highly competitive market, but the reality is that two of three high-profile ones that all took place at the end of May — Fate Brewing in Boulder and Ironworks Brewery & Pub in Lakewood — had more to do with their own specific financial issues than they did with brewery competition in general.
"Colorado's Ten Biggest Breweries — Now That Coors and New Belgium Are Gone"
Colorado suffered a double whammy in the fall. First, Coors announced that it would close its Denver headquarters and lay off most of its employees there. Then New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins said it would be purchased by Japanese conglomerate Kirin. The result: Neither one of these longtime Colorado companies takes its orders from Coloradans anymore. But there are plenty of smaller independent breweries on the rise, including Left Hand, Dry Dock, Upslope, Ska and Denver Beer Co.
"The Real Story Behind the Oskar Blues/Guns N' Roses Lawsuit"
When the band Guns N' Roses sued Oskar Blues this year for trademark infringement over its beer, Guns 'N' Rosé, the strange story made international headlines. But the real story, contained in public court documents, was even weirder, outlining a long series of letters between the two sides in 2018 and a strange stubbornness on the part of the Longmont brewery when it came to the name of its new beer. The case was eventually settled, and Oskar Blues has since changed the name of the beer to Rosé for Daze.
"Two Well-Known Front Range Breweries Will Close Their Doors"
The writing has been on the wall for Colorado's brewery scene for a while, but two well-known breweries that shuttered in May each had their different reasons. 38 State Brewing, which became Littleton's first taproom-only brewery when it set up shop in 2014, said it was time for the owners to "move on" to new things. Boulder's Fate Brewing, meanwhile, closed after a series of problems led to tax issues and then bankruptcy. Fate's former facility and equipment were later auctioned off — with Durango's Ska Brewing filing the winning bid.
"Great Divide Brewing Won't Build New Brewery, Sells RiNo Land"
Six years after buying five acres of land along the South Platte River in RiNo and announcing plans for a huge new brewery, Great Divide Brewing said in September that it would sell half of the land and no longer planned to build there. The brewery, one of Denver's oldest, has already constructed a huge packaging and storage facility, along with the Barrel Bar taproom, there, but a flattening market for craft beer means that major investments no longer make sense. Denver-based McWhinney development firm is under contract to buy the land.
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"Breckenridge Brewery Founder Wants to Return Original Pub 'to the People'"
Breckenridge Brewery founder Richard Squire had kept a fairly low profile in the beer world since stepping away from the company in the 1990s, but he was back with a vengeance in 2019. In June, the brewery, which was purchased by Anheuser Busch InBev in 2015, revealed that Squire, whose real estate firm still owns the building where the original brewpub is located in the ski town, didn't want to renew its lease. That led to lawsuits, a war of words (Squire said he wanted to put an independent brewery back in that location), and an eventual settlement that will allow the pub to stay put in its longtime home for another two years. The battle would be Squire's last, however. He passed away from cancer in November.
"The Thirty Most Important Beers in Colorado History"
With Colorado's biggest breweries making major changes and some of its oldest celebrating impressive milestones, it was time to take stock of the state's beer history. To compile our list of the most important beers in Colorado history, we reviewed hundreds of beers and surveyed a variety of beer experts. The results include game-changers from Coors Original and Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout to WeldWerks' Juicy Bits.