Eight of the 10 largest craft breweries in Colorado posted lower production numbers in 2020, according to a report from the Boulder-based Brewers Association.
Why it matters: The latest numbers, published in the industry journal New Brewer, are the most comprehensive look at how the state's $3 billion craft beer sector fared in 2020 amid the pandemic's shutdown and the pivot to take-away sales.
Context: The decline is not a surprise given the national numbers we reported earlier this year.
- Yes, but: The scale of the troubles in Colorado is newly evident.
By the numbers: Only two of the top 10 craft breweries in the state experienced growth in 2020: Denver Beer Co., at 21% and Canarchy, which owns Oskar Blues and five other breweries, at 2%.
- The most significant decreases in beer volume hit regional breweries, such as Great Divide (-29%) and Left Hand (-16%). Dry Dock saw production fall by 19%.
- The tough year led breweries to close 26 locations, but 25 new brewpubs or taprooms opened — a sign of the local market hitting maturation.
Between the lines: The shutdown of taprooms and brewpubs hit craft brewers hardest — because this is where they make most of their money.
- The expansion of beer sales to grocery stores in 2018 boosted brewers that established relationships with chains, but not everyone.
- Other smaller brewers scrambled to package their beer and relied on loyal customers to keep them afloat.
What they're saying: "For many breweries, the situation was more challenging than some of these numbers show," says Bart Watson, the association's economist and study's author.
Zoom in: Tucked inside the numbers, a handful of smaller Colorado brewers stood out as bright spots.
- New Image Brewing in Arvada saw 25% growth, while New Terrain in Golden and 4 Noses in Broomfield also increased production.
Denver Beer Co's co-founder Patrick Crawford said his brewery experienced a push from grocery store sales and managed to remain relevant with fun promotions, such as the Don Exotic beer, a riff on Netflix's "Tiger King."
- "We were able to thrive," he told John. "For every pint of beer we didn't sell in taprooms, someone bought a can of beer through one of our retail partners."
Of note: The Brewers Association analysis only includes small, independent breweries that allowed their data to be published.
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