38 State Brewing in Littleton, Colorado on June 17, 2015.
Craft brewing is big business in Colorado, with more than 330 producers. The results of a new list ranking the 50 fastest-growing small and independent breweries in the country indicates that while there is room to grow locally, it may be easier outside the beer-logged Centennial State.
Colorado Springs’ Nano 108 Brewing Co. and Littleton’s 38 State Brewing Co. — ranked 38th and 49th, respectively — are the only two Colorado beermakers to crack the list, which was released Tuesday by the Brewers Association. The Boulder-based nonprofit craft-brewing trade group has tracked the top 50 U.S. craft beer sellers for years — a list on which Colorado held down five spots last year. This is the first time it has ranked the fastest-growing breweries.
The list draws only from brewers that filled out the association’s annual survey and had at least three years of data to share. The Brewers Association is keeping individual brewery sales numbers secret until next month but said in a news release this week that the 50 brewers on the list have a median growth rate of 216 percent from 2016 to 2017. The median size of the breweries on the list shot up to 963 barrels in 2017 from 284 barrels the year prior.
A driver of 38 State’s growth was an upgraded brewing system. The establishment went from a single tank to seven tanks in 2016, general manager Steve Schuett said Tuesday. Its beers were available at more than 20 liquor stores, but 38 State last year decided to stop canning and bottling, in part because competition on store shelves meant the product wasn’t moving fast enough to be enjoyed fresh by consumers, Schuett said.
“The nature of our product is fresh beer,” he said. “Growth for us is more friendly faces in our taproom and more tap handle accounts at area restaurants and bars.”
CraftRoots Brewing Co., in Milford, Mass., was the fastest-growing brewery in the country last year, according to the list. California was the best represented state, with seven breweries in the top 50. It’s the only state in the country with more breweries than Colorado — 623 to 334, according to the Brewers Association — but it also features a population roughly seven times larger. Florida was second, with four breweries on the list.