Denver’s craft brewery scene filling up

DENVER -- As craft breweries continue to break into the market, experts say years of almost guaranteed success are over.

Denver is now home to more than 70 craft breweries. Steve Kurowski is the Operations Manager for Colorado Brewers Guild. He said in the early days of the craft brewery seen, businesses could open up shop with more ease than other industries.

"There is no question craft beer has seen an unusual amount of success. Unlike most industries, there has been very few closings for breweries lately," said Kurowski.

Kurowski said it's hard to give a definitive answer on whether or not the craft brewery scene is saturated but he said it's easy to make the determination that whoever comes in now, will need to step up.

"We may see some attrition coming up soon and any breweries that open up, they are going to have to be sharp. They have to be in a great location, a really strong brand, connected with their community and most of all, brew outstanding beer," said Kurowski.

Chris Bell opened Call to Arms Brewing Company 3 years ago. When his brewery opened, Bell said he was competing against 48 other local craft breweries in Denver. Now, that number has reached more than 70.

"I think the days are over of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ For a long time, opening a craft brewery was enough and those days are over and I think it’s a good thing for the industry.  It forces us to think outside the box and brew new exciting beers all the time and push ourselves to making the highest quality beer," said Bell.

Bell said while the competition can be intimidating, it'll lead to a healthier industry overall.

"It's nerve wrecking but as a whole, it’s good for the industry. It forces everyone to be on their 'a-game,'" said Bell.

Kurowski said moving forward, local breweries will find more success by keeping retail contained to the tap room instead of trying to expand sales to liquor stores across the state.

"Those opportunities are going to get smaller and smaller as time goes because those spots are filled, there is only so much shelf space to accept that beer," said Kurowski.

"Just like any small business, you’re going to have to have a strong business plan moving forward. You’re going to have to stick to your guns and not chase that growth rabbit that some of these others are chasing," said Kurowski.

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