A chat with Steve Kurowski

The marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild analyzes the current state of Colorado craft beer.

Last week I had a phone call with Steve Kurowski. Kurowski is currently the marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild and has been an active participant in the craft beer industry for over a decade. You can read more about him in this Denver Post article from a few years back.

My talk with Steve was short, but in the time we had he was able to give some interesting takes on the state of craft beer in Colorado. Below are some questions I asked him during our talk and some of the key points he gave in response. I have edited his quotes for the sake of clarity and brevity.

Jordan Gillmore: To start off, would you mind giving a bit of background on the Colorado Brewers Guild and the work it does for craft beer in the state?

Steve Kurowski: We represent all the craft brewers in Colorado and of the 300 breweries in the state, about 75% of them support the Guild through membership.

JG: Colorado Senate Bill 197 passed last year and promises to shake up the stability of craft beer here. What problems does this new law pose for craft breweries and how are you preparing to deal with these issues?

SK: We are very engaged in the rule-making process from this law. We are still working with distributors, retailers and brewers to file down the specifics of what this law is going to mean, but I think we can all agree that this is the perfect storm against craft beer that allows grocery stores to get what they’ve always wanted — full-strength beer. At the same time, global brewing companies are buying distributors and craft breweries to control distribution. AB-InBev will have a complete portfolio of beer and grocery stores will be able to one-stop shop with them. This is going to make access-to-market in grocery stores very difficult for these [craft] breweries.

The independent liquor stores that really helped the 300 breweries in Colorado establish themselves are in danger. If they go away, these craft breweries have very limited access to market.

JG: Governor Hickenlooper has said that this bill was a sort of perfect compromise between craft breweries and marketplaces because of the delay until 2030 for grocery stores to legally carry full-strength beer and liquor. Do you agree with Hickenlooper?

SK: I don’t agree with that statement. As the rule making develops, there is potential for this to switch over as early as 2019, and the wrinkle with that is all these grocery stores have 3.2 percent beer licenses already. In 2019, 3.2 percent beer by virtue of this bill goes away. So that means that all of these 3.2 percent licenses in grocery stores have the potential to turn into full-strength beer licenses overnight. That’s the scary part.

This is just a sampling of my interview with Steve. There is much more of our conversation that will be found in my longform piece later this semester.

You can follow my ongoing story here on Medium, as well as on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.