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On Brewing: A look back—and a look ahead

Article by Eric Peterson December 31, 2017, 12:05 pm MST

It's a brand new year for BreweryWeek.

We've chronicled Colorado's craft breweries for the past three years and it's been a trip. As the industry hit a fever pitch, we've kicked the tires of dozens of breweries across the state, from Ska in Durango to Parts & Labor in Sterling.

This year, we'll broaden into smaller, taproom-focused breweries and continue to profile the growers, manufacturers, and other partners who are bolstering the state's supply chain. We'll also increasingly publish features on industry trends and manufacturing logistics.

But first, here's a look back -- and a look ahead.

Top five BreweryWeek profiles of 2017:

4 Noses Brewing Co.

The Broomfield upstart has won notice for its hoppy IPAs and barrel-aged experimental batches. Founder Tommy Bibliowicz traded a career in risk management for one in brewing in 2013 -- and he hasn't looked back.

Parts and Labor Brewing Company

BreweryWeek's Angela Rose profiled the first craft brewery on the Eastern Plains in April. Founder Dylan Harford talked about weaning the locals off of the macro-breweries at his Cadillac dealership turned taproom and brewery, and his love of Belgian beers.

Colorado Hop Company

The founders saw the opportunity to fill a niche by pelletizing locally grown hops. Since it launched in 2016, the company has supplied a long list of local craft breweries.

Metalcraft Fabrication

BreweryWeek's Gregory Daurer interviewed Charlie Frye, founder of the since-shuttered Oregon-based tank fabricator, in early 2017. Frye noted that he's seen lower demand for larger tanks as smaller tanks drove growth for his company.

WeldWerks Brewing

With Juicy Bits, its New England-style IPA, winning national acclaim, WeldWerks was one of the big stories for Colorado's craft scene in 2017. Our profile of the Greeley-based brewery covered that and its work with Denver's Sleeping Giant Brewing Company to contract manufacture its canned beers.

And the top five stories we'll be following in 2018:

Consolidation: It's hard to avoid  Anheuser-Busch InBev buying up craft breweries the last couple of years, but consolidation has occured at every level of craft brewing. Oskar Blues scooped up Cigar City in 2016 and Wit's End moved into Strange Craft's production facility at the end of 2017. After the Brewers Association late 2017 gambit to crowdfund the buyout of AB InBev, the trend could well accelerate in 2018.

Taxes: The new tax bill cuts the excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer from $7 to $3.50, a big win for craft breweries. Brewers have the opportunity to pass the savings to their customers or else reinvest in their operation.

On-demand printing for cans: With the volumes required for pre-printed cans in the six-digit ballpark, brewers have long looked for solutions requiring less up-front investment and storage space. With solutions coming online, look for on-demand digital printers to offer lower minimums that make canning small and seasonal batches a more realistic option.

Bubble: With the number of Colorado breweries approaching 400, the possibility of a bust is increasing. Several of the state's breweries shut down in 2017, others changed hands, and still others are for sale. Whether the state is oversaturated with suds or has room to grow should become clearer in 2018.

Local supply chain: Craft maltsters, hop growers, yeast ranchers, and equipment manufacturers have all taken off with Colorado's craft brewing industry. As craft breweries' (and their customers') demand for all things local continues to mount, this is a segment poised for continued growth.

Eric Peterson is editor of BreweryWeek and CompanyWeek. Reach him at rambleusa@gmail.com.

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