Boulder Beer Retrenches, Pivots to Brewpub Model

Citing increased competition in a crowded marketplace, Boulder Beer Company announced today that it would cease distribution and focus on its brewpub business.

“Boulder Beer has been part of my life for close to 30 years, as it has been for so many of our loyal friends and patrons, and we all want to see it live on,” Boulder Beer owner and CEO Gina Day said in a press release. “We will offer our handcrafted, top-notch beers to the local community for years to come.”

Speaking to Brewbound, Boulder Beer director of marketing Tess McFadden said the 40-year-old Boulder, Colorado-based beer company will pivot to a brewpub business model once the last batches of production beer leave its facility.

“She [Day] just looked at every possible different model for sustainability, and this was the one that made the most sense,” McFadden said. “It was important to her to see the brand live on.”

As part of the transition, Boulder will lay off about 20 of its 50 employees over the next two months as operations wind down, she added.

“Today’s been pretty tough,” McFadden said. “All of our staff were absolute pros.”

Production at Boulder Beer, which was founded in 1979 by David Hummer and Randolph “Stick” Ware, a pair of University of Colorado-Boulder astrophysics professors and homebrewers, has declined steadily in recent years. Last year, the company produced 16,305 barrels of beer, down 44% from its peak of 29,333 barrels in 2014.

According to McFadden, the company plans to buy a seven-barrel brewhouse and will transform its production area into an event space. The brewpub will continue serving Boulder beers, as well as a barbecue-focused menu.

“It’s the end of an era, but the beginning of a new chapter,” she said.

Boulder Beer plans to sell the majority of its equipment. However, the company plans to keep its 50-barrel brewhouse, which remain as a decorative artifact.

McFadden estimated that beer currently being shipped to its wholesalers and retailers, as well as product that is already in stores within its 27-state distribution footprint will be in code through the end of 2019.

“We still have beer in tank, and we’re planning to wind down packaging and ship out the rest of our inventory and fulfill existing orders,” she said. “Once that’s gone, it’ll just be having to make a little road trip to the brewery to have our beer on tap.”

Boulder’s 40th Anniversary Ale, a barrel-aged golden strong ale brewed with pineapple and champagne yeast, will be the last batch of beer the company will roll out to the market.

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