Colorado’s craft beer rules!

Some readers may argue that brewing beer isn’t really a high-tech occupation.

To that I can only say: Bah humbug!

My college roomate and I tried brewing our own back in the late 1970s — cooking the ingredients on the kitchen stove, bottling it in previously used Hamm’s bottles and aging it in a closet. The disastrous results convinced me that brewing is truly a complex, highly technical process.

And besides, how many software programs, semiconductor designs and computer systems do you think would ever have been completed without frequent sessions of “beer therapy?”

In any event, Coloradans have reason to be proud of our homegrown craft brewing industry.

The Boulder-based Brewers Association (see http://www.beertown.org/) this week released a list of the country’s top 50 “craft brewers,” a term that refers to the smaller, independent and traditional breweries that have become the fastest growing segment of the U.S. brewing industry. The association reports that sales of craft beer in U.S. supermarkets grew 17.8% in 2006, compared with just 10% for wine and a mere 2% growth for “ordinary” domestic beer from the industry’s big four producers (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors and Pabst).

Colorado, it turns out, is home to five of the 50 largest U.S. craft brewers. Only California, with seven top-50 brewers, has more. (If all the smaller brewers are counted, Colorado actually has closer to 100 commerical micro-breweries)

Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing Company Inc., maker of the extremely popular Fat Tire beer, ranks as the third-largest U.S. craft brewer in terms of 2006 sales. Actual sales figures were not disclosed as part of the rankings, but a Denver Post article last July reported that New Belgium brewed about 370,000 barrels of beer in 2005, while Inc. magazine reported last year that the progressively managed, eco-friendly company had 2005 sales of about $70 million.

Following is a list of Colorado’s Top-50 craft brewers, and their rankings:

      Company…………………City……….Rank

_______________________________

  • New Belgium…………………Fort Collins……3
  • Rock Bottom Brewery…..Louisville……..24
  • Flying Dog…………………….Denver…………29
  • Odell Brewing……………….Fort Colllins….31
  • Breckenridge Brewery…..Denver………….36
  • Boulder Beer…………………Boulder…………41

Source: Brewers Association

_______________________________

“Beer made by small, independent and traditional breweries is definitely an American success story,” says Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association.

With just under 1400 small breweries the segment eclipsed 6.7 million barrels in 2006. The fastest growing craft beer sector in 2006, with a 16% sales increase, was microbreweries (those under 15,000 barrels a year). Total craft beer industry sales have grown 31.5% over the past 3 years.fattire2.jpg

The Denver Post reported that brewers contribute $3.7 billion a year to this state’s economy, although the bulk of that no doubt comes from the Coors and Anheuser-Busch operations here.

Nonetheless, my hat’s off to all the dedicated beer makers whose bubbly brews make our lives — and the technology industry — so much better (when consumed in moderation). I plan to open an ice-cold Fat Tire a few hours from now in celebration.

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