Eight craft beer trends to look for in Colorado in 2013

Categories: Beer Man

Bru Facebook page
Look for more limited distribution packaging from breweries like Bru.
One of the best parts about Colorado's craft beer scene is that it changes constantly. From one week to the next, beer geeks can hit a new taproom, try an innovative new brew, head to a packed festival and generally make friends in other states jealous. The last year saw a lot of big news -- some bad, but mostly good -- in the craft universe (see our "Ten biggest Colorado craft beer stories of 2012"), and 2013 will likely be just as big. Here are a few of the trends you can look forward to this year -- in no particular order. Cheers.

See also:
- Video: the Rackhouse Pub gets to know Strange Brewing as trademark dispute continues
- Avery Brewing experiments with low-alcohol "session" beers it plans to can
- Who's keeping local hop farmers in business?

Thumbnail image for Backcountry_Brewery_Pilsner.jpg
Frisco's Backcountry Brewery just began bottling sixpacks.
1) Limited Distribution Packaging
Depending on which liquor store you go to, you can sometimes find bottles or cans of beer packaged by small breweries in other cities. Eddyline Brewing in Buena Vista has cans at Argonaut; Boulder's Crystal Springs has bottles and cans at Mondo Vino; Trinity bottles can be found at Mr. B's; Prost sells growlers to Joy Liquors and a few other spots; Bru has bottles at Boulder Wine and Spirits; and Golden City sometimes has stuff at Mile High Wine and Spirits in Lakewood. That trend is going to increase in 2013 as lower-cost packaging options, like Mobile Canning, increase, and smaller breweries look to get their stuff out there on a limited basis, even as the space for new beers gets more and more crowded. In addition to the breweries named above, look for beer from Lone Tree Brewing, Hall Brewing, Strange Brewing, Backcountry in Frisco, the Bull & Bush, Three Barrel, Grimm Brothers, Big Choice Brewing and others on the occasional shelf around Denver this year. This is in addition to breweries like Renegade, Crooked Stave, River North and Dad & Dude's, which have already carved out niches in the freezers of numerous local liquor stores.

Cannonball Creek Facebook page
Opening day at Cannonball Creek this month.
2) Nanobreweries and Microbreweries
When Strange Brewing opened in 2010, the first of what would become dozens of small breweries in the Denver metro area, they made everything on a one-barrel system. When Wit's end opened a year and half later, it was with a half-barrel system. Some barstool economists figured that model wouldn't work - that the breweries simply wouldn't be able to make enough beer to pay off loans. But so far, those economists have been wrong. In the meantime, numerous other small breweries have opened, some with smaller and smaller brewing systems and off- or occasional hours. You can expect to see more of that in 2013 as part-time breweries flourish because of the demand for crafty local hangouts in small neighborhoods or towns. Already, three new breweries -- in Boulder, Loveland and Golden -- have opened their doors in 2013; more than fifteen others are on the horizon for the first half of the year up and down the Front Range. Make sure you call for hours first.

AC Golden could be ready to pop.
3) AC Golden's next big hit
Full disclosure: AC Golden is owned wholely and entirely by MillerCoors. But the "crafty" brewery, located deep inside the megabrewer's massive Golden plant, is cranking out fantastic beers on several levels. For small-batch fans, there are the sours, barrel-aged stouts and other flavor-packed brews that rival Colorado's best independent microbrewers. For those looking for the next "approachable beer," AC Golden is also winning - literally - having brought home six Great American Beer Festival medals in the past few years for its lagers. At some point, the parent company is going to notice what a good thing they have going and take one of these beers national, as it did with Blue Moon. When that happens, craft brewers may have a real fight on their hands.

Hops Picking.jpg
Sorting hops at Rising Sun Farms in Paonia.
4) Pelletized hops
Colorado's hop farming industry is almost entirely supported by AC Golden, the MillerCoors small-batch incubator that makes Colorado Native. But the farmers are adding acreage every year - and adding customers among Colorado's craft breweries. The biggest obstacle for expansion, though, is that Colorado's growers aren't able to form their hops into pellets, which is the primary way that brewers use them. This year, the largest farmer, Misty Mountain Hops in Olathe, sent some of its hops out of state to be pelletized, however, and there is talk among other growers of buying a pelletizing machine in the near future. Seems like a perfect industry for Colorado.

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Any info on the brewery incubator in planning here in CO?  I'm guessing the brewery co-op is RadCraft?

Christopher David
Christopher David

Even more growth. Per capita, we actually don't have nearly as many breweries as other beer-centric cities. Keep building and we'll keep drinking.

Mantonat topcommenter

Solution to the problem of MillerCoors dominating the Colorado hop crop: brewers, brew with whole hops. I know pellets store well and are easier to use and clean up after, but brewers have been using whole hops for hundreds of years with great results. Think of it as an exercise in old-school techniques.

I'm also still strongly against buying AC Golden or 10th & Blake products. Yes, they are making some excellent products, but they are also fully subsidized by MillerCoors. It totally goes against the whole concept of craft brewing to have every aspect of production underwritten by a corporate giant, from the economies of scale available from quantity purchasing, to instant distribution paths, to access to state-of-the-art equipment, R & D, and QC. I respect the talent and hard work of the folks that make the beer (and perhaps they have paid their dues and have earned a spot by the kettle through their resumes, but they're still playing with daddy's money.


Great Divide is experimenting with sessionable beers that are simliar to their main lines, too. (Herc, Yeti, etc.) I was impressed when I tried them a few weeks back.

Mantonat topcommenter

@kale_co @Mantonat Yep, I read that article, which is part of why I wrote what I did. I think it is a problem when one multinational corporation is the majority customer for Colorado hops. As soon as they get bored with their craft beer hobby, or as soon as market trends indicate to their stable of analysts that there's waning interest in "locally grown," they'll drop Colorado hops like it's chocolate-covered bacon. 


@Mantonat @kale_co That's understandable, but I don't know that we can have it both ways.  Either MillerCoors pays a large markup for hops grown in Colorado, which will hopefully allow those farmers to be self-sufficient in the future without MillerCoors; or they do not buy the hops and Colorado farmers are forced to switch to more profitable, sustainable crops.  

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