Beer in the time of COVID

American Craft Beer Week arrives when we need it most

Wibby Brewing is one of a dozen Boulder County breweries offering to-go sales.

Last month the Brewers Association — the Boulder-based trade organization representing small and independent breweries — announced they had laid off 23% of their staff “to maintain the long-term viability of the Brewers Association.” It said in an April 27 press release, “The Brewers Association’s fortune mirrors that of our craft beer community.”

The Colorado Brewers Guild isn’t doing much better: Westword reports the CBG has cut its staff by half, leaving only executive director Shawnee Adelson. Continuing a familiar theme, the CBG announced the postponement of the 24th annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous (scheduled to take place in Salida this July) to a tentative October date, and the BA has canceled this year’s Homebrew Convention.

This doesn’t bode well for cohesion in the industry moving forward. The BA is wrapping up its virtual Craft Brewers Conference and should be getting ready for the Great American Beer Festival in September. As of this writing, GABF is still going forward, Sept. 24-26, but seems unlikely given the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. Even if a vaccine were discovered, being able to produce and distribute it en masse will take time.

It also takes a lot of time to plan and produce these festivals, which is why Germany pulled the plug on this year’s Oktoberfest — the largest beer festival in the world.

Cholera and war have canceled Oktoberfest before. Should GABF last another hundred years, a 2020 COVID-19 cancellation is just one for the history books. That’s a big if: 58% of the BA’s 2019 revenue came from events (CBC, SAVOR, GABF), and 2020’s looking to lay a goose egg.

Lester Jones also has a lance he’d like to put in. The chief economist for the National Beer Wholesalers Association estimates that brewers will lose $8 billion if the on-premise shutdown continues into June.

That’s billion with a B — eight of ’em. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote: Kill the body and the head will die.

Boulder County ends its stay-at-home order on May 8, and the day when bars, breweries, brewpubs and taprooms are allowed open draws closer. But, with social distancing measures in place and facial coverings required, it’s going to be damn hard to sit around and knock back a few. Public beer drinking in 2020 is already dead; we’re just waiting for the corpse to stiffen.

What good news is there to find in all of this?

“We have plenty of beer,” Ryan Wibby of Wibby Brewing says. That’s a start. And American Craft Beer Week (May 11-17) is a good follow-up.

Sponsored by the BA and (a website published by the BA), American Craft Beer Week is the annual celebration of small and indie U.S. breweries, and this year they’re looping in a pledge component.

Go to, punch in your name and the name of a buddy you’d like to treat, pick a local brewery offering to-go beer and decide how much you like your friend: A beer, a crowler (32 oz.), a growler (64 oz.), a six-pack, a 12-pack or a pony keg.

Wibby Brewing is one of a dozen Boulder County breweries listed on you can pledge to, as is Crystal Springs Brewing Company, which just released their Classic American Pilsner. Made with six-row barley, corn, Crystal hops and German lager yeast, Crystal Spring’s C.A.P. arrives just in time to dig the lawnmower out of the garage.   

Ska Street Brewstillery
On March 16, at 11 a.m., Ska Street Brewstillery opened its doors to the hungry and thirsty masses of Boulder, Colorado. Roughly one hour and 11 minutes later, the doors were ordered closed, and Ska Street’s been quiet ever since.
They’re back and ready for curbside pickup. Hours are Wednesday through Friday, 3-7 p.m., and Saturday, noon-7 p.m. The menu is loaded with smoked offerings and should be paired with Ska’s Rye Ale, a collaboration between Ska Street and Hazel’s Beverage World. It’s dynamite.

Colorado Strong Pale Ale
Left Hand Brewing Company and the Colorado Brewers Guild are partnering to brew and release Colorado Strong Pale Ale. Made with all Colorado ingredients, 20% of sales from Colorado Strong will go to support Colorado craft breweries and suppliers. The beer will be available starting May 10, more information at


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