Colorado craft brewers look to be reunited and feel so good

It’s not final, but it looks like craft brewers in Colorado will patch up their differences and reunite behind one state trade association before the 2017 legislative session starts in January.

View from the roof of Great Divide in RiNo (Roxy Harbitter)
View from the roof of Great Divide in RiNo (Roxy Harbitter)
View from the roof of Great Divide Brewing Co. in RiNo (Roxy Harbitter)

It’s not final, but it looks like craft brewers in Colorado will patch up their differences and reunite behind one state trade association before the 2017 legislative session starts in January.

The 14 breweries that broke off from the Colorado Brewers Guild earlier this year are reportedly poised to come back on the condition that the guild be more transparent and adopt some new rules.

“It’s really confusing for there to be two groups representing Colorado craft brewers,” said Brian Dunn, founder and president of Great Divide Brewing Co. “In principle, we decided to merge and be one group.”

As one group, the Colorado Brewers Guild can effectively be the voice of all craft brewers in Colorado when asking state legislators and city officials to pass or block legislation and ordinances that could help the brewing industry.

Denver-based Great Divide, Left Hand Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., Odell Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues Brewery — five of the largest craft brewers in Colorado — were among those that decided to start their own group earlier this year.

The brewers said they were looking for a more proactive approach to brewery-related rules and regulation than the Colorado Brewers Guild historically provided, as well as more transparent leadership than the guild offered.

“Everybody’s agreed there needs to be more transparency and more of work on legislative issues,” Dunn said.

The CEO of New Belgium, Christine Perich, told attendees of the Great American Beer Festival that the split “wasn’t so much about the larger breweries wanting to have a separate group. It was about wanting to make the guild fully functional for everyone” and “really pushing our issues instead of dealing with small fires every day.”

Perich made the comments during a panel on why it’s important for craft breweries not sell to macro-brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev. Such acquisitions were raised as another issue during the split.

Earlier this year, the guild decided those like AB-InBev-owned Breckenridge Brewery could be non-voting members.

Dunn says going forward any brewery not at least 75 percent independently owned or that brews more than 6 million barrels of beer a year won’t be allowed in the new group. Those rules essentially kick Breckenridge Brewery out.

Breckenridge Brewery didn’t immediately comment on the proposed rules. The Colorado Brewers Guild also declined to comment.

“We still have some work to do and a voting process before we are ready to release an official statement,” said Steve Kurowski, spokesman for the guild. “I hope we can announce something with confidence very soon.”

Last week, a board member of the guild told the Denver Business Journal after meeting between during the Great American Beer Festival the brewers have agreed in principle to combine once again.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia covers business and trends for Denverite. He's covered business for The Fort Collins Coloradoan and serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.