Strolling through Oskar Blues' Longmont headquarters and brewery — a bustling maze of eclectically decorated office space, cavernous storage warehouses, brewing facilities where employees zip around on bicycles, assembly lines packed with a seemingly endless parade of cans and a taproom where staff and the public cheerfully mingle while sipping ales made a few yards away — one could be forgiven for assuming the craft beer industry is cruising along full speed ahead.
But the industry, of which Oskar Blues is an undisputed leader with production facilities in three states and distribution in all 50, is showing signs of a prolonged slowdown.
Following years of explosive growth, both nationally and in Boulder County, the United States craft beer industry has seen that growth rate decline every year since 2014, when annual production volume growth peaked at 18 percent. Last year, that growth rate was only 5 percent, according to data from the Boulder-based Brewers Association.
"Oskar Blues' business — for the first time ever — was less than flat on a national level last year," brewery marketing director Chad Melis said. "This was the first time in our history that our business was down."
That drop-off is less a function of some deep flaw in the company's strategy and more a function of the changing landscape of the craft beer world, he said.
"Obviously, the industry has matured and there are a ton of breweries and options," Melis said.
Oskar Blues is certainly not shouldering the burden of this apparent industry maturation cycle alone.
In Boulder, Avery Brewing Co. saw slower sales growth last year.
"We are definitely feeling the same challenges as a lot of people in the industry," Avery's marketing manager, Joe Osborne, said. "We had an awesome boom for a long time, but this a maturing industry and all of us need to batten down the hatches." ...read more
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
by Summit—Noting that he’s frequently beset by self-doubt and not terribly experienced in brewing beer, Bryan Walters, 29, insists he’s just not going to open a brewery like everyone else is doing right now.
“Listen,” he says stroking his beard, “I know I check all the boxes: I’m a guy, I’m a millennial, I like craft beer, and my girlfriend — well, my ex-girlfriend — she gave me a home-brewing kit like two years ago. But that doesn’t mean I have to open my own brewery, right?”
With warm afternoon light pouring through a local brewery’s windows, Bryan With a Y works his way through a few small-batch IPAs and continues. “I mean, have you seen the new places opening up? Fancy light fixtures, exposed brick, hand-painted murals and reclaimed wood… This stuff is expensive, and I know next to nothing about raising money or running a business.” ...read more