Out-of-state brewers are flooding Colorado with their latest and greatest beers

Categories: Beer Man

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While some Colorado brewers have been pulling their beers out of other states recently, breweries from other states continue to try their luck in Colorado, where craft beer seems to flow in the streets like water and in the veins of its residents like blood.

Since the beginning of 2011, at least eight out-of-state brewers have hit the shelves here: Epic (Salt Lake City, Utah), O'Fallon (O'Fallon, Missouri), Maui Brewing (Maui, Hawaii), Tallgrass (Manhattan, Kansas), Mad River (Blue Lake, California), Hoppin' Frog (Akron, Ohio), Cisco Brewers (Nantucket, Massachusetts) and Santa Fe (New Mexico).

Others, like California's much-decorated Firestone Walker Brewing, are looking around for distributors, while a few more, like Elysian, Left Coast, Anderson Valley, Moab Brewery and Lakefront, have expanded their lineups.

Terry Cekola, president of Elite Brands of Colorado, a distributor that counts craft beer among its specialties, says there's plenty of room for all of them.

"The category of craft is so hot right now. Our buyers want the newest, coolest things coming out or the new and special releases," she says. "They're all over the stuff."

In the bars, that means fewer permanent tap handles and more rotating ones, and in the liquor stores, it means more room for beer. "Some of the bigger places have turned parts of their wine space into beer space," Cekola says.

And the recent influx of new bars and restaurants -- like Ale House at Amato's, Freshcraft, Euclid Hall and Hops & Pie -- that focus on craft beer means craft beer is more than just a trend. "Demand is actually increasing faster than the supply," she notes.

Which makes it difficult for some companies to hit the Centennial state. Michigan's New Holland Brewing, for instance, plans to introduce its line of spirits here, Cekola says, but can't produce enough beer right now to support distribution in Colorado.

As for Firestone Walker, the company has been hinting for months that it would begin distributing some of its limited-release beers in Colorado -- going so far as to set up a Facebook page just for Colorado fans. But Firestone recently took down that page, and Cekola says the brewer still hasn't picked a distributor.

"We put our name in the hat," she says, adding that Firestone is now planning to bring its entire lineup to Colorado. "We'll see what happens with that."

In the meantime, she is focusing on San Diego County's Green Flash Brewing, which has been distributed in Colorado for a while but just joined Elite. Cekola says the company plans to ramp up its presence here dramatically.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan.
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