Colorado is famous for many things, but one of the state’s most unique attractions is its collection of lively craft breweries. With over 400 breweries, an annual beer festival, and rich history of brewing, Colorado is home to one of the greatest craft beer scenes in the world. Why does Colorado have so many craft breweries? When did this delicious and creative legacy begin? Find out with this guide to Colorado’s brewing history and how it made the Centennial State what it is today.
The Origins of Colorado Craft Beer
Beer has existed for many centuries; in North America, Native American populations brewed beer long before European settlers arrived. However, the game changed in the 1800s, when a new wave of immigration brought more Europeans and their brewing techniques to the Americas. Many of these immigrants became big names in the beer industry, including Adolph Coors, who created Coors Brewing Company, Colorado’s most iconic brewing operation.
Colorado’s brewing history goes hand in hand with the gold rush. As miners flocked to the Rocky Mountains in search of gold, brewers joined them to serve a refreshing glass of beer at the end of the workday. Rocky Mountain Brewing became the first local brewer in 1859, but hundreds of companies followed in its wake.
A huge part of why Colorado has so many craft breweries dates to the gold rush. Beer didn’t travel or store well, so brewers had to make their stock locally and on-demand. As a result, dozens of individual breweries cropped up throughout the mountains as mining operations moved. Colorado had over a hundred breweries at the height of the gold rush—that's more than many states have today!
Post-Prohibition Beer Boom
By the 20th century, beer in Colorado was an industry of its own. Everything changed when Colorado passed prohibition measures four years before the United States outlawed alcohol. Major beer companies failed, and others—like Coors—only stayed afloat by switching gears to different products, like malted milk.
After prohibition, the beer industry needed time to get back on its feet. However, things changed again when the United States legalized home brewing in 1978. A few crafty Colorado entrepreneurs took advantage of this new law and began their own breweries. Gradually, Colorado’s craft brewing scene came back to life.
Colorado Craft Beer Today
Today, Colorado’s craft beer scene draws visitors from all over the world. The annual Great American Beer Festival gathers some of the best brewers globally to celebrate our fantastic brewing tradition. Colorado is full of rich, creative, and top-tier breweries, from major companies like Coors to local brewers who greet their customers by name
Want to experience Colorado’s craft beer scene for yourself? Grab a YoColorado men’s Colorado t-shirt and come visit us! Tour some of the best breweries in the country, experience unique, limited-time flavors, and soak in the gorgeous mountain views from the patio. Once you explore Colorado’s craft breweries, you’ll want to keep coming back to enjoy it again and again.