Mar 30, 2021 - News
Colorado loses clout in new ranking of top craft breweries
Illustration of a mug of beer, with a sad face in the foam
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the first time in recent memory, Colorado is no longer home to one of the top five largest craft breweries in America.

The new rankings for the top craft breweries by sales volume in 2020 — issued Tuesday by the Boulder-based Brewers Association — only include three Colorado beer makers:

  • 6. CANarchy (Oskar Blues), Longmont
  • 17. Odell Brewing, Fort Collins
  • 47. Left Hand Brewing, Longmont

Why it matters: It's a major ego blow. Colorado considers itself "the state of craft beer." But its stature on the list of top craft breweries continues to fade.

  • Moreover, craft brewers are losing clout and economic impact (it's a $3 billion industry here) as international companies swallow up their major players.

Between the lines: In recent years, two of the largest craft brewers sold to high bidders to cover the cost of expansions and grow even bigger. The sales meant they no longer qualified as small, independent craft brewers, per the association's definition.

  • For years, New Belgium ranked in the top five for craft brewers — a point of pride here in Colorado. But in 2019, Kirin purchased the state's iconic brewery, so it no longer appears on the list.
  • The same year, Spanish beer maker Mahou San Miguel took a majority share of Avery Brewing.

Now Colorado is best represented on the association's ranking of the top 50 breweries that includes the international companies that own multiple brands:

  • 1. Anheuser-Busch (Breckenridge), Fort Collins/Littleton
  • 2. MolsonCoors (Coors/Blue Moon/Colorado Native), Golden
  • 11. New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins
  • 12. Founders/Mahou (Avery), Boulder
  • 15. CANarchy (Oskar Blues), Longmont
  • 26. Odell Brewing, Fort Collins

To add insult to injury, an online popularity contest run by USA Today just listed the best beer cities and ranked Denver sixth and Fort Collins eighth.

  • Of the top 10, I've done beer tours in all but two of them, and Colorado's cities deserve a much higher ranking compared to the others.

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