Colorado’s oldest craft brewery Boulder Beer gets a refresh

Well-balanced beers a hallmark of 39-year-old brewery

By Paul Hagey Oct 19 2018

As the first craft brewery in Colorado, Boulder Beer Company is an icon. When two CU professors brought it to life in a small farm goatshed in charming Hygiene, just a few miles northeast of Boulder, the U.S. had just 42 breweries.

Now, the country has more than 6,200 craft breweries, over 345 just in Colorado!

Five years after the farm launch, the brewery built its current headquarters in central boulder at 2880 Wilderness Place, just a skip off the Goose Creek bike path west of Foothills Parkway.

With its iconic glassed-in foyer featuring copper fermentation vats, the brewery offers visitors a welcome like no other in town. This magnificent entry drew brewer David Zuckerman to the brewery in 1990.

Boulder Beer’s copper fermenters in its glassed-in foyer. Paul Hagey, BLDRfly.

Boulder Beer Journey

That portico helped pull David from Portland, Oregon, where he worked at a craft brewery. While the brewery had a brief wild ride as a public company in the eighties, David has seen just one ownership group in his 28 years.

Gina Day, who with Old Chicago founder and Boulder business icon Frank Day make up one of the town’s preeminent power couples, bought the firm in 1990 with another couple.

Boulder Beer’s most popular style, according to Brewmaster David Zuckerman. Paul Hagey, BLDRfly.

In 2001, they sold the brewery intellectual property (IP) to Frank Day’s Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc. and reacquired it from the group several years later, according to Zuckerman. No Boulder Beer ownership or operations changed with that temporary IP deal, he says.

In 2017, the Days brought Boulder Beer to downtown Boulder when they purchased the long-standing seven-barrel brewpub Walnut Brewery at 1123 Walnut Street.

After a year as a Boulder Beer-branded brewpub, the Days announced a new brewpub concept under a new brand, Squared Pizza + Beer. Boulder Beer continues to use the site’s brewery as a testing ground to try out new beer recipes and as a brewpub sales outlet.

Boulder Beer beer

Boulder Beer brewmaster David Zuckerman says the brewery’s wheelhouse is well-balanced, easy-drinking brews. It doesn’t test the limits with high ABVs or IBUs or hazy unfiltered beer. “That’s not our wheelhouse,” David says.

David Zuckerman, Boulder Beer brewer. Paul Hagey, BLDRfly

This consistency and the long-running brand help the brewery, which will do approximately 18,000 barrels in 2018, find success. This is harder than ever as competition comes from angles, both from maturing local craft breweries and those across the nation.

“It’s a crazy time right now,” David says.

This crowded market, in part, drove the firm to hire Boulder-based international design firm Moxie Sozo to modernize its labels for a handful of its most popular beers including Shake, Mojo IPA, Buffalo Gold, Due East, Festbier and Pulp Fusion.

Moxie Sozo + unspooling the ‘Ohs’ of craft beer label design

The brand refresh is the brewery’s first. The brewery wanted the rebrand to capture its essence and help drive a new focus on canning beer. The new look features story-rich, 360-degree illustrations and a cinematic black frame that prominently display the iconic Boulder Beer brand.

Due East new branding. Paul Hagey, BLDRfly.

Feature image: Shot of Boulder Beer headquarters front entrance in central Boulder highlighting its old-school brewery high-windowed foyer displaying its copper fermenters.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Boulder Beer sold its business to another operator from 2001 to 2010. In fact, it just sold its intellectual property — ownership and operations remained intact in that period.

Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.