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Denver by the Data, Vol. 5: Breweries and Beer

This is the fifth installment of Denver by the Data, a quasi-monthly, data-driven belly flop into different topics of various to the city. The topic of the month: beer and brewing.
Total breweries in Denver: 51

Portland, Oregon, has 61.

Total breweries in planning in Denver: 25+

Colorado beer production (2014): 1,673,686 barrels (2nd per capita after Vermont)

Economic impact in Colorado (2012): $1.63 billion (2nd per capita after Oregon)

The state at one time would chart as one of the top per-capita consumers, but now ranks in the middle of the pack at 30 gallons per person per year as of 2012, just 1.8 gallons higher than the national average.

Colorado has an 8 percent tax on beer -- only Wisconsin and Wyoming tax suds less.

Denver is consistently ranked alongside Portland as one of the top major cities for beer in the U.S.

Denver's largest breweries

Now that Breckenridge Brewery has departed for the south suburbs, Great Divide Brewing Company in Arapahoe Square is now the largest brewery in the city. Founded in 1993 by Brian Dunn, Great Divide brewed 41,924 barrels in 2014 and and was trending "up" in 2015 . That would make it the sixth-largest craft brewery in Colorado after New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Breckenridge, and CraftWorks (owner of Rock Bottom and other brands).

Great Divide's reign as the city's largest brewery should last longer than Breckenridge's 7.5-year run, as it assumed the title when Flying Dog flew the coop for Maryland in 2008.

Now home to a warehouse, canning line, and the soon-to-open Barrel Bar, Great Divide's new production facility will launch in RiNo with an annual capacity of about 100,000 barrels when brewing commences in a few years, says Brian Dunn, the brewery's founder. Its capacity will be expandable to 250,000 to 300,000 barrels in subsequent buildouts, according to Dunn's "pie-in-the-sky" projections.

Estimated annual output of Denver's Tivoli Brewery Company in the 1950s: 150,000 barrels

Founded in 1900 with roots in the 1850s, Tivoli shut down in 1969, but a new incarnation -- Tivoli Brewing Co. -- opens in the old brewery structure, now the Tivoli Student Union, on the Auraria Campus next month (Aug. 2015).

The Great American Beer Festival

Denver has hosted GABF, the country's biggest beer festival, since 1984.

In 2014, more than 700 breweries offered more than 3,500 beers from all over the country in the festival hall to 49,000 attendees. (That's the largest selection of American beer at any event in history, and up from 2,101 beers in 2009.) Tickets sold out in 32 minutes.

They go on sale for 2015 (to be held Sept. 24-26) on July 29.

In 2014, some 3,300 volunteers worked 47,214 hours at GABF. It's been said that the event is second only in total volunteers to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

And it's only getting bigger. In Sept. 2015, GABF is adding another festival hall, which increases the event’s footprint by about 30 percent, or about 900 breweries, 3,500 beers and 60,000 beer nuts.

The big picture

There are more than 3,500 breweries operating in the U.S. in 2015, more than any year since the 1870s. That's about one brewery per 91,428 people nationwide.

In Colorado, there are about 240 breweries -- or one per 23,000 residents, a per-capita rate that's about four times the national average.

In Denver, there's about one brewery for every 1,200 residents, 76 times the national average.

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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