Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Prognosticating Colorado Craft Beer for 2013

Colorado Craft Beer Crystal BallIf you had a crystal ball and could see the future - what do you think it would show you? If you had a crystal beer that showed you the future of craft beer in Colorado, it might surprise you. Fermentedly Challenged takes a look ahead at 2013 and predicts what may happen in this year ahead.

We already know that there are nearly 75 breweries in the development stages. Some of these breweries are set to open this month. How many more breweries can Colorado support? Will the craft beer bubble burst in 2013? Or will the growth spurt continue well into 2014? Here are a some predictions.

Fermentedly Challenged Predictions for 2013

- 2013 will be another boom year for craft beer. The "bubble" continues to grow. Of the 75 breweries in development here in Colorado, about 20 to 25 of them will open this year. The number of breweries in Colorado will inch closer to 200. Colorado has about 271 cities and towns. There's still plenty of room for more breweries in more towns. But will some towns get too many?

- Another 3-5 existing Colorado breweries will close due to hard economic times and inability to keep up with demand. This seems to be the norm, but it's unlikely that any more than that will fail due to the continued growth spurt in Colorado.

- Of the 160+ existing breweries - another existing 60 breweries will need to expand their current operations. Business will continue to boom for many Colorado breweries. In order to keep up with demand they will have to expand or possibly relocate. Some will even open 2nd (or 3rd) locations. Expand or Die will be the mantra.

- Legislation will once again fail to allow full strength beer in Colorado grocery/convenience stores this year, BUT this will be the last time such a measure will fail. Change is inevitable. Expect by the end of 2014 that this measure will pass in some form or another.

- Production of barrel-aged beers will become more common in Colorado breweries as demand for these kind of beers grow. But these types of beers will become more expensive for consumers at the same time due to limited batches, rarity and availability of barrels.

- Craft beer prices will begin to rise noticeably by in the Fall. 2013 will see hard times for regional malt and hop growers due to continued severe draught and extreme weather. By year end, a 6-pack may cost $1-2 more. Due to shortages, some breweries will not be able to get all the supplies they require and will be forced to drop some style selections. Double IPAs, Fresh hop beers, Imperial styles will be even more costly to make.

- The big macro brewers will continue to buy out more local craft breweries in order to get a better foothold in the craft market and make up for lost market share. These "crafty" breweries will test loyalties of some craft beer drinkers.

- By year end, several mid-size breweries will need to engage in more collaborative projects with smaller breweries to help each other out with production capacity - sharing resources, people and supplies. A couple of these collaborations will end with announcements of mergers.

- Hop farm acreage in Colorado will continue to rise, particularly on the Western Slope. Expect the number of acres planted to nearly double in 2013. Many of the existing hop farms will get to full maturity for the 1st time this year and local breweries will reap some benefits. Crops on the Eastern side of the state may experience poor yields due to another year of severe heat and drought.

- The Great American Beer Festival will experience severe growing pains in 2013. Tickets will continue to sell out at a record pace as demand from craft beer drinkers will grow rapidly. This will force big changes for the GABF by 2014. I predict that by 2015, the GABF will become so popular it may need to split and open up a 2nd festival in the Eastern US to allow for more fans to attend, either that or ticket prices will continue to rise.

- Look for additional Colorado beer festivals to be added this year that will be focused on specialty beers such as Barrel-aged, Experimental, Saisons and Sour beers. The rise in popularity of these beers will attract a lot of interest in these festivals.

- Severe drought will result in more forest fires throughout the state and could endanger the mountain reservoirs where many municipalities get their water (including breweries). Look for more stricter restrictions on water usage and higher water prices. This may affect beer prices later in the year.

- Due to the continued popularity of craft beer, homebrewing will continue to rise in popularity. Expect more homebrew shops to open up as the demand for equipment and supplies grow. Homebrewing competitions will become even more common and the need for more beer judges will become evident.

- There will be a need for more certified beer judges in the state as the number of entries at homebrew competitions rise and beer festivals.

- Many nano-breweries will find it hard to keep up with demand. These breweries will be forced to have limited days and hours as supplies will be low and demand high. Some of these breweries will need to expand. Fundraising projects will become more common in Colorado.

- Beer tourism will become even more popular in Colorado this year. The advent of more cities utilizing spaces for "open liquor containers" will draw even more people into craft beer cities like Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Boulder.

What do you think? Do you agree with these predictions? Have some of your own you wish to share? Post a comment here or on our Facebook page and let us know your opinions.

Related articles:
- A personal look back at 2012 and Colorado craft beer.
- FC After Hours - Colorado beer laws again in flux.
- How NOT to treat your growler of beer.

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