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The Colorado Craft Brewery Experience: How Growth is Reshaping Its Identity

Authors: Kristopher Kuzera*, University of Denver
Topics: Wine, Recreational and Sport Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Beer, Colorado, Denver, Culture, Community
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the spring of 2005, the AAG annual meeting last descended upon Denver and the Rocky Mountain West. By that time, craft beer had already established a strong identity within Colorado. Nearly 100 breweries were active throughout state, similar numbers to those found in Washington, Oregon, and Wisconsin, and dwarfed only by California. The face of Colorado beer, which had long been linked to Coors since the 1800s, had started to shift to smaller, regional brewers in cities like Fort Collins, Boulder, and Longmont. Breweries that had opened during the first craft beer boom of the early 1990s were starting to distribute outside of Colorado’s borders. However, within Denver, fewer than 10 breweries were active at that time. In the 15 years since that annual meeting, the number of Colorado breweries has grown to well over 400 in 2020. More than 80 craft breweries now exist within Denver’s borders. This growth has been part of a nationwide trend in craft beer. But the growth has faced setbacks and challenges that threaten the sustainability of such a large industry. This article will look at how the identity of craft beer in Colorado has been reshaped over recent history, from competition to collaboration, from small community origins to nationwide accessibility and back again. As more breweries open annually, new establishments aim to grab their share of a market that is seeing large shifts in consumption. The future of craft beer as a unique cultural experience in Colorado will be explored.

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