Colorado is home to a 1.15 billion-dollar craft beer industry, with more than 10% of the United States’ breweries. Most of these 300-plus establishments are situated on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, including cities like Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs. More importantly, the beers created here are some of the most essential and exciting in the nation.
A Rocky History
Brewers in Colorado were among the first in the nation to get into craft brewing after Prohibition wiped out breweries in the United States in the 1920s. The state saw their return in the 1970s and 80s, with establishments like Carver Brewing in Durango and Wynkoop Brewing in Denver. The current craft brewing bubble in Colorado has seen a 200% increase in breweries since the recession ended in 2009, most of which serve neighborhood niches. The state is a center for brewing with the national Brewers Association in Boulder and festivals like Denver’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), which serves 1800 brews from over 400 top brewers.
Notable Breweries and Beers
Although most of the grain and hops comes from elsewhere, some of the most well-known brewers in the country are based in the Centennial State. Here is a list of five of the biggest names with the signature brews that have put them and Colorado on the map.
- Odell Brewing Company was founded in 1989 in an old grain elevator in Fort Collins. Since then, this early craft brewer has expanded twice to distribute its 45,000 barrels of stupendous brews across 11 states, Great Britain, and Ireland.
- Best Brews: Their IPAs, including the well-rated Myrcenary Double IPA.
- New Belgium Brewing Company is a well-known brewer based in Fort Collins, as well, with around 200 million dollars in annual sales. Jeff Lebesch founded the employee-owned New Belgium in 1991 based on his bicycle tour of Belgium.
- Best Brews: The classic Fat Tire amber ale and boundary-pushing brews from the Lips of Faith series.
- Avery Brewing Company is a Boulder-based brewery and restaurant founded in 1993 by Adam Avery when he noticed the growing market in Colorado. Their recent expansion to a 96,000-foot location supports their broad range of brews.
- Best Brews: Limited editions like the barrel-aged Rumpkin pumpkin ale, as well as The Maharaja Imperial IPA and White Rascal Belgian style wheat.
- Great Divide Brewing has earned five World Beer Cups and eighteen GABF medals with their locally-sourced, strong beers. Founded by Brian Dun in downtown Denver in 1994, Great Divide has become known for its boozy and highly drinkable beers.
- Best Brews: Old Ruffian barleywine ale and Yeti Imperial Stout, including the latter’s barrel-aged variations.
- Left Hand Brewing was founded by aficionados Dick Doore and Eric Wallace in 1993. Named after a local Native American chief, Left Hand features a wide range of award-winning brews in their Longmont tasting room, from light to dark and mild to bold.
- Best Brews: Their flagship Sawtooth Ale and creamy Milk Stout Nitro.