Craft Brewers in Colorado

Colorado is known for many things, including its sports teams, fantastic outdoor recreation, and others.  One of the lesser known facts is that craft brewers play a large role in the state economy.  In 2012, the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business conducted an economic impact study of craft brewers in the state of Colorado.  The daily camera has a summary of the study here.

Craft brewers in Colorado can be thought of as all the brewers besides Coors.  Coors is the elephant in the room, a giant in the industry (7th largest in the world).  Its facility in Golden is the largest single brewery in the world.  But despite the size of Coors, it is the smaller craft brewers that draw the attention of enthusiasts and economists alike.

According to the Business Research Division study, the first in Colorado dates back to 1859.  In 1975, the industry had been in a steady decline, and there was only one brewery in the state.  Thanks to legislation in the state which supports the industry, the number of establishments reached an all time high of 136 in 2011.

A slight majority of those establishments are brewpubs, or businesses which both produce beer and operate a restaurant.  The labor intensive nature of the craft brewing business (especially in conjunction with a restaurant) means that craft breweries employ a lot of Coloradans.  The industry employed an estimated 4,170 works in 2011, paying $102 million in wages.  Converted into an annual salary, that averages less than $25,000 per employee, which is well below the state average income.  Part of the reason for this is the part time nature of most restaurant/bar-tending jobs.

And the craft brewers in the state are locally oriented.  Less than a quarter of breweries export outside the state, with the rest catering to Colorado residents.  Some breweries are so in tune with the classic Colorado outdoor lifestyle that they offer ski passes to employees as a form of compensation.

In all, the industry had an economic impact of $450 million in 2011 and supported the employment of $5,800 residents.  Excise taxes were estimated at just over $1 million, and state/local taxes related to the businesses’ operations $40 million.

Coors might be the largest brewer in the state, but the smaller craft brewers shouldn’t be overlooked.


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