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Boulder Valley breweries prepare for more changes to industry with grocery store sales

By Jensen Werley

BOULDER — On Jan. 1, grocery and convenience stores will be able to carry full-strength beer and obtain multiple liquor licenses, Boulder Valley craft breweries are still waiting to see what that will actually mean for them. The process, craft-beer CEOs told Bizwest at a CEO Roundtable on Tuesday afternoon, has been scattershot. Some of the fine print needs changes to make the transition logistically possible for everyone involved. Colorado’s process of transitioning to grocery stores starting to carry full-strength beer is an unusual one, and many are figuring it out as they go. “No one knows how to handle this, this has never happened before,” said Michael Memsic, owner of Sanitas Brewing Co. in Boulder. “Safeway and Kroger don’t know what they’re doing because they’ve never done this before, and we don’t know what we’re doing because that’s part of being a craft brewer.” Some brewers will fare better than others, said Jeff Brown, president of Boulder Beer Co. Those who already have relationships with national chains — likely because that are in stores in other states — will be able to petition for the limited additional space grocery stores will add for a larger beer selection. Those with a strong local presence may be able to get into local stores. The hope is that it won’t all be out-of-state beers getting more play. “I would hope there would be enough legislative blowback on grocery chains that there will be some pressure,” Brown said. “‘We gave you this to benefit Colorado consumers, and it has to benefit Colorado businesses.’ If it doesn’t, hopefully, they’ll go back and rewrite it one more time.” The industry is seeing changes in other ways. Earlier this week BizWest reported that Liquor Mart sold for more than $16 million and would likely be redeveloped into student housing. “Liquor Mart was king before Hazel’s opened,” Memsic said. “They’re close together. But you walk into the two stores, where do you want to shop? When Hazel’s came, Liquor Mart didn’t do anything to pick up its service.” The industry is also seeing a slowdown of growth. “Overall beer sales in the U.S. have gone down, but craft beer has gone up slowly,” said Jeffrey Green, owner of Very Nice Brewing Co. in Nederland. “The entire pie has gone down, but the bigger slice has gone to the craft-beer drinker.” Still, Memsic predicted that by 2019 or 2020, there will be more closures of breweries than openings in the state. The last time that happened was around ’95-’96. That’s likely due to oversaturation of the market, and breweries deciding to close as their leases come to an end and rent goes up. Some breweries are being strategic in order to avoid the potential of closure. “A lot of breweries are rallying around the homebase that is their tasting room,” said Davin Helden, co-founder of Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co. in Lafayette. Rather than trying to distribute, he said, more breweries are staying focused on the tasting room. “The way we’re […]

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Source:: BizWest