The head of Colorado’s main craft brewery association has yet to attend the state’s and country’s largest craft beer festival.
That’s expected to change for Andres Gil Zaldana on Thursday as the 36th annual Great American Beer Festival kicks off in downtown Denver. The event marks roughly the seven-month mark for Gil Zaldana as executive director of Colorado Brewers Guild and almost a year since state brewers settled their discrepancies to address slowing sales and other issues facing the industry.
With close to 200 breweries on board, membership in the Colorado Brewers Guild is at the highest level it’s ever been in the trade association’s 22-year history, Gil Zaldana said.
The breweries that broke away from the organization last year and started their new organization were welcomed back, he said. “A few breweries decided not to rejoin, but they were few and far between.”
Gil Zaldana will be at GABF this week representing the reformed organization at various events around town as well as at the Protect Craft Guilds Pavilion at the event. He’ll likely be talking about how the guild is rolling out a more proactive approach to brewery-related rules and regulation, promoting collaboration and events as well as highlighting other leadership.
Craft beer is a huge industry in Colorado with a $3 billion economic impact in 2016, according to recently released data from the Brewers Association. But it’s not an industry without challenges.
“The rate of growth has been decelerating as the industry moves to a normal pace of growth,” Gil Zaldana said.
He sees the guild as helping Colorado brewers figure out this “new normal.” The organization’s also bracing for 3.2 beer being phased out with grocery stores to starting to sell full-strength brews starting in 2019. Some fear the transition will hurt liquor stores that carry local craft brands and that it could be harder to find room on supermarket shelves.
Gil Zaldana’s Colombian heritage could aid the guild as it looks to promote inclusivity both among beer drinkers and those working in the industry. He’s also used to fighting for policies around small businesses with his previous work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a private-practice attorney in Washington D.C.
The Colorado Brewers Guild will finalize its 2018 legislative agenda in coming weeks. One area importance will be finding ways for brewers to reach new markets including possibly fighting to allow beer tastings at farmers markets and other venues, Gil Zaldana said.
“It’s a little too early to provide specifics at this point … check in with us in a few months,” he said.