In Colorado, we often take great beer for granted. Seldom do people outside the industry recognize the challenges that brands need to meet in order to keep their ales and lagers in the pipeline to us.

Each of the finalist breweries is thriving in the midst of a changing consumer landscape and business climate. COVID-19, especially, presented difficulties to work through, in terms of shutdowns and shortages.

“We were reeling for a bit,” says the Denver Beer Company’s Charlie Berger, referring partially to the availability of aluminum cans during the pandemic. “But we’re always creative and coming up with solutions to problems. That’s what craft brewers and small businesses people do.”

The four breweries vying for Craft Brewery of the Year at the 2022 Colorado Manufacturing Awards are resilient. They’ve overcome obstacles, occasionally needing to rethink aspects of their business in order to sojourn on. Often pioneering, they were started by people with vision, a commitment to their own ideals of excellence, and a passion for pushing the boundaries of brewing.

Sanitas Brewing Company (Boulder)

As spring arrives, Sanitas is rolling out its seasonal Cherry Saison and Lime Lager. And CEO Michael Memsic, who co-founded the brewery in 2013, knows an ideal spot to enjoy the beers: outdoors at the company’s Boulder location. “We believe we have the best patio in Boulder,” he says — a greenbelt-adjacent, zymurgical oasis at the back of an industrial park.

“Last year, we canned 31 unique SKUs, and this year well be in that similar ballpark,” says Memsic, who expects to brew upwards of 3,500 barrels by the end of 2022. The company distributes its own beers chiefly along the Front Range, as well as for the clients from Colorado and Illinois represented by its distribution company.

Memsic says an additional tap room is on the horizon, although the location hasn’t been finalized. But wherever a consumer enjoys one of Sanitas’ “everyday drinkable” beers (such as its Saison, IPA, or Everyday Mountain Lager), Memsic says, “We want your experiences to be the lead — and our beer to support your great experiences.”

CompanyWeek profile (July 2016):

Holidaily Brewing Co. (Golden)

Karen Hertz believes in the power of malted buckwheat and millet to create enjoyable beers, instead of wheat and barley. For people like Hertz, who need to avoid gluten for medical reasons, Holidaily brings the suds to the party — far and wide. “We’ve grown a ton,” says Hertz. “We now distribute to eight states.” They include Oklahoma, California, Arizona, and Texas (Austin is a hot market).

At its brewery taproom in Golden and its second location in the Denver Tech Center, the brewery serves its gluten-free stout, blonde ale, and popular IPAs — as well as others not featured within cans. People may not be able to drink beers made with gluten, but that doesn’t mean they can’t imbibe a gluten-free beer that’s, for example, a barrel-aged amber or a (dairy free) coffee-cream ale.

And the brewery is increasingly pumping out the beer at its present facility in Golden, its second production location since its founding. Simultaneously, it’s seeing acceptance from major retailers: “Now that we’re in a number of states, we’re starting to build really good relationships with some of the larger national chains,” says Hertz.

CompanyWeek profile (August 2017):

Denver Beer Company / Cerveceria Colorado (Denver)

“We’re probably best recognized for our taproom experience,” says Charlie Berger, who co-founded the Denver Beer Company (DBC) in 2011. There’s a “great time” to be had while hoisting, for instance, a Graham Cracker Porter or Love This City Pilsner at DBC’s locations in Olde Town Arvada, on Platte Street, and in the Rosedale neighborhood. And slated for opening in “late fall” will be its new tasting room in Lowry.

Customers can also enjoy Mexican-style craft beers at Cerveceria Colorado, which DBC also runs. Inspired by the work of Mexican craft brewers, as well as the country’s cuisine, Berger notes how “super-fun ingredients” have resulted in chile-, mole-, and horchata-flavored beers.

Keeping things on the sunny side, DBC’s production facility utilizes “100 percent solar power” in the making of over 25,000 barrels per year. It also captures the carbon dioxide released during brewing, sustainably reusing it for additional purposes within the brewery.

This year, the company is expanding distribution into Utah and Kansas. And Berger wants consumers there — and everywhere — to appreciate “how great our hoppy beers are,” as well, which include the World Beer Cup gold medal-winning Summit Sunrise Red Rye IPA and the brand-new Throwin’ Haze.

CompanyWeek profile (October 2016):

Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (Denver)

Chad Yakobson, the founder of Crooked Stave, not only brews sour beers, he cultured the brettanomyces yeast he uses to brew them.

This year, Yakobson expects to produce about 9,000 barrels of beer — sours, lager, and both West Coast and East Coast-inspired IPAs. “The fact that in one facility we can brew equal parts IPA and sour beers is something that no one does at that volume,” he says. He points out how Crooked Stave was the first brewery in the nation to put sour beers into cans, as well.

And Yakobson keeps his finger on the pulse of what’s going on nationally via his distribution company, which brings beers from across America to the state. Within Colorado, he’s also developed long-term relationships with farmers on the Western Slope, who grow the peaches and cherries he uses whole when brewing his fruited beers.

“It’s ingrained in our culture,” says Yakobson about his brewery’s spirit of innovation. “It’s who we are.”

CompanyWeek profile (December 2016):

The winners of the 2022 Colorado Manufacturing Awards will be revealed on April 7 in Denver. The event is open to all Colorado business enthusiasts and stakeholders. REGISTER HERE for the 2022 CMA Winners Reveal & Gala.

Additional reporting by Eric Peterson.