COLORADO, USA — Colorado remains home to three of the 50 largest craft breweries in America, but for the first time in decades, the state has a greater presence of the nation’s largest non-craft brewers than it does of locally and independently owned suds manufacturers.
According to the annual list produced by the Boulder-based Brewers Association, Canarchy — the collective of seven breweries headed by Longmont-based Oskar Blues Brewery — was the sixth-largest craft brewery in America in 2020, rising two spots from the 2019 list and the No. 15 brewery overall by production. Odell Brewing Co. of Fort Collins moved up two spots as well to No. 17 (No. 26 overall) and Left Hand Brewing of Longmont jumped one place to No. 47.
One reason Oskar Blues’ parent company became the largest craft brewery in Colorado was because of New Belgium Brewing’s late 2019 sale to a division of Japanese beer giant Kirin, which disqualified it from the craft-brewing list because it’s more than 25% owned by a non-craft-beer beverage manufacturer. And that and ownership changes in recent years are major factors in why Colorado is considerably less represented in the BA’s craft beer rankings this year than in the trade group’s rankings of the 50 largest overall brewing companies in America.
Only 10 of those 50 largest beer makers are non-craft producers, but four of them have a significant presence in Colorado:
- No. 1 Anheuser-Busch Inc. (NYSE: BUD) has a manufacturing plant in Fort Collins and is the owner of Breckenridge Brewery of Littleton, a former top-50 craft brewery;
- No. 2 MolsonCoors Beverage Co. (NYSE: TAP) formerly was headquartered in Denver and still operates the country’s largest single-site brewery — the Coors plant in Golden;
- New Belgium, which also operates Magnolia Brewing of California, ranks No. 11 overall after coming in No. 4 on the craft-brewery list in 2019; and,
- No. 12 Founders Brewing/Mahou San Miguel owns and operates Avery Brewing of Boulder County, also formerly a top-50 craft brewery before the Spanish brewer bought into it.
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