Breweries become part of neighborhood landscape

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Jason Bell, co-owner and brewmaster at Living the Dream Brewing Company, often gets asked this question: "Do you see the craft beer bubble bursting?"

His answer: “No.”

The craze may taper off a bit, but Bell believes his early focus on learning the actual business of craft beer will help Living the Dream navigate any rough patches.

According to the Brewers Association, a trade group for beermakers, craft beer's market share of the total U.S. beer market grew 12.5 percent in 2015 while the number of craft breweries grew 26 percent. The number of breweries in the south metro Denver area has been rising since 2014, with at least 10 now calling the area home.

A decrease in relative price may explain some of craft beer's popularity.

"You can make $30,000 a year and still drink craft beer," Bell said.

Steve Schuett, general manager at 38 State, sees breweries replacing neighborhood bars. Many breweries fit the part, with live music, trivia nights, sports on TV and visits from food trucks.

When Bell was working in retail liquor sales in the Chicago area during the Great Recession in thelate 2000s, he saw craft beer remain relatively stable even though wine sales took a hit.

He also said craft beer fans are willing to travel long distances to find new and exciting beers.

India pale ales have been king of the mountain in the craft beer world for several years now, and while other styles may gain in popularity, the IPA is likely to remain dominant, he said.

“The next big thing is out there — it just doesn't have the money to push it,” said Brett Blazek of 38 State Brewing. “How the IPA is now, I don't know if anything will ever rival it.”

IPAs will remain popular, Bell said, but scarcity of hops will tamp down the trend of brewing hoppier, more bitter ales. High demand for hops, a plant used to flavor beer, combined with the drought in the Pacific Northwest —North America's main hops growing region — have shrunk its availability.

“I do think that the days of who can make the biggest, baddest, hoppiest beers are gone,” he said.

With the growth of craft breweries, many are becoming fixtures in their towns and neigborhoods. When Jason Reinhardt and Andy Nelson opened Locavore Beer Works in 2014, they picked the location partly due to the surrounding area.

“Let's become the neighborhood brewery,” Reinhardt remembers thinking.

At Locavore, the brewing tanks are exposed to the patrons, a purposeful choice.

“When you come to a brewery," Nelson said, "you want to be in a brewery.”

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