Why we obsess about microbrews

With the passing of Colorado Microbrew Week, it is important to reflect why this movement of innovative beverage producers are so important to our state. More so, it is important to put this particular industry into perspective.

It is painfully obvious that microbrews are popular not only in Colorado, but across the world. This particular market continues to grow despite the feeling that the market may be already saturated – or even inundated – with so many new breweries opening everywhere. However, despite the growth of this industry, the entire microbrew marketplace only represents 10% of total domestic beer sales.

Let the statistic sink in for a second – only 10% of total beer sales.

The other 90% of beer sales is dominated by only two entities: MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. MillerCoors is obviously the big name behind Coors Original, Coors Light, and Miller Lite; AB InBev produces Budweiser and Bud Lite. However, under the corporate umbrella of these two large conglomerates are a whole slew of beer brands that many people don’t realize are not independent brewers. In fact, many MillerCoors and AB InBev products are confused to be “microbrews.” Beers like Blue Moon, Shock Top, and Leinenkugel’s are great examples of beers that are misconstrued to be small scale productions, when in fact they are in the deep pockets of the macrobrew industry.

Is there anything wrong with drinking these beers? Not necessarily. People are free to drink the beer (or beers) of their choice.

However, microbreweries play a significant role in shaping our economy. The economic impact of Colorado microbreweries cannot be understated. In 2012, Colorado ranked fifth in the nation for total economic impact made by microbreweries, which generated more than $1.6 billion in revenue that year. (If you consider the dollar amount on a per capita basis, we are actually numero uno. No big deal.) Colorado microbrews also employed close to 20,000 people in the same year. For comparison purposes, the microbrew workforce is comparable in size to that of cooks, elementary educators, and truckers in Colorado.

When distinguishing the local economic impact of a certain beer, it is important to do your research. Let’s take Colorado Native for example. As a product of AC Golden, a subsidiary company to MillerCoors, one might think that the local impact of this brew would be minimal. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of AC Golden’s hops providers are located on the Western Slope, including Misty Mountain Hop Farm (Olathe), Palisade Organic Hops, and Grand Mesa Hops. AC Golden also brewed a small barrel batch utilizing Olathe’s namesake and cash crop – sweet corn – in their production. You can’t get much more local than that. AC Golden gets a bum rap among the craft brewers, because of its deep pockets provided by MillerCoors, but their local impact on the Western Slope cannot be denied.

So how are we supposed to know exactly what a craft brewery is? The Brewers’ Association has a very specific definition of what constitutes a craft brewery. (Click here to read it.) There are a lot of resources out there to help identify craft beers. For example, for you iPhone users, check out the “Craft Check” application. (An Android version is coming out soon too.) Also, the following links will show you names of every beer made by the “Big Two”:

All MillerCoors products: http://www.drinkamerican.us/faq/31-general/58-sabmiller-brands.html

All AB InBev products: http://www.nomorefreebeer.com/index.php/the-facts/anheuser-beer-list/

Finally, if you haven't yet, you really should watch "Beer Wars." It is insightful and it will change the way you think about beer. And it's streaming on Netflix and Hulu. 

At CB’s Tavern, we harp on the importance of buying locally – and the same goes for beer. The dollars spent purchasing a beer from a Colorado microbrewery have a greater chance of being funneled back into local economies than they would if they were spent on a beer from one of two larger conglomerates. This isn’t about beer snobbery; this about supporting your local economy. Drink craft beer like your community depended on it. All we are asking is for our patrons think about where you would prefer their money to go. 

Well... that, and microbrews also just taste better. But that's our opinion. Ok... maybe there is a little snobbery. Either way... cheers!