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Boulder Beer exclusive: 'The what's next monster' & its impact on craft brewing

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If you live in the Front Range of Colorado and you are not a brewer, odds are you are a benefactor of "the what's next monster." What in the world is this, you ask?

This is what consumers, distributors and retailers have become as a result of the craft brewery explosion that has taken place in Colorado, and the nation at large, over the past five years.

During the year 2008, there were over 400 breweries that attended the now obsessively popular Great American Beer Festival. This past year saw that number go well over 620 breweries in attendance for the event. Additionally, if you went to the Beer Festival back in 2007, you had zero problems getting tickets up to the week of the event. In 2013, the event sold out in a mere 20 minutes.

So what do these numbers mean? Craft brewing is extremely popular and it has completely exploded in growth very quickly. No state is further proof of that than Colorado, as it sports the most craft breweries per capita in the United States.

Craft breweries seem to open every single week in the Front Range and keeping up with all of them is getting to be a very difficult, albeit tasty task. Retail space is limited and it has become a near turn-off for customers if a restaurant in the Front Range does not have any craft beers on tap.

So with all of this competition and vast growth within Colorado, the bubble has got to burst, right? There's only so much shelf space at liquor stores and there are only so many taps at restaurants around Denver. had the chance to speak exclusively with Boulder Beer brewmaster and co-owner David Zuckerman about this phenomena and get his thoughts on the industry's biggest trend.

"I think everyone needs to understand the economic model that breweries need to survive, and that is you have to have flagship brands," Zuckerman said. "We’re the victims of our own success, we’ve created a monster, the 'what’s next monster.'"

I think that’s what is really dominating the market right now.

"When you walk into a retailer with a new beer, before they’ve even tried it, their response is 'what’s next?' It’s a challenge to only be brewing what’s next. Financially it’s challenging to do that, but at the same time, you’ve got to have new beers to maintain interest to your core brands.

"I don’t know who is really driving the 'what’s next' phenomena but I think it’s a result of how society has changed at large. With the Internet, you can find anything you want. The craft beer industry is kind of reflective of that. Almost anything you want is being produced somewhere or by someone.

"If you draw a one-mile radius around our facility, there are nine other brewers and Boulder has [over] 100,000 people? That’s not even the total number [of breweries] in Boulder; it’s just within one mile of us. The consumer choice is what’s interesting. It’s almost overwhelming, and yet it’s this scattered approach to wanting what’s new," Zuckerman said.

Who knows how much longer the craft brewing market will continue to expand at such a rapid pace in the Front Range, but what is for sure, is it's a golden time to be a beer drinker.



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