LOUISVILLE -- Five breweries not enough for you eastern Boulder County beer lovers? Then let's make it an even half-dozen.
Crystal Springs Brewing Co., which has been brewing small batches of craft beer a mile up Sunshine Canyon Drive for the past three years, this week opened a 3,000-square-foot brewery and taproom in Louisville's Colorado Technology Center.
The opening comes on the heels of the debut of Erie's first brewery, Industrial Revolution Brewing Co., which has been pouring its craft porters, English browns and wheats at its newly constructed brewery and taphouse on Cheesman Street for less than a month.
The two new beer halls join four others -- two in Louisville and two in Lafayette -- that have opened in the last year or so and made eastern Boulder County the latest hotbed for hand-crafted hoppiness.
Name goes back more than a century
Tom Horst, Crystal Springs' owner, said brewing in his garage and selling his beer to wholesale customers such as North Boulder Liquor, The Kitchen and Alfalfa's has been gratifying, but now things are starting to get a little cramped at home with his two-barrel brewing system.
Also, Horst is more than a little curious about who actually buys and drinks what he has painstakingly been making since 2010.
"We didn't have a storefront and we didn't have a taproom, so we needed a place where could meet the public," Horst said Thursday, as he checked on a couple of fermenters working through an American wheat and a black IPA that will soon join the 11 other beers he has on tap at his brewery. "I wanted a place where we can expand if we need to."
As in expand from his current level of 400 to 500 barrels annually to 10 times that amount. At Crystal Springs' new location, 657 S. Taylor Ave., Unit F, Horst feels like he can grow while simultaneously welcoming a nightly crowd of 40 or so guests to sample his goods -- including a Russian Imperial Stout, a dark English mild and chili beer made with Hatch peppers -- in his 66-seat taproom.
Horst isn't concerned about his out-of-the-way location in the Colorado Technology Center. He said the majority of his opening-week customers work in the office park southeast of downtown Louisville, and he knows he can draw people in from farther away because he's been around a while.
And it doesn't hurt that Crystal Springs has a long and rich history in Boulder, starting out as Boulder City Brewing and then morphing into the Crystal Springs Brewing & Ice Co., with a sprawling turn-of-the-century operation just west of where the Alfalfa's in Boulder now sits. The company went out of business during the Prohibition, Horst said, and the name Crystal Springs went dormant for nearly a century until he came along and breathed new life into it.
Horst, who has home-brewed since the early 1990s, sells his beer to 40 different commercial customers and intends, at least for the time being, to remain a mostly wholesale business.
"We're primarily a production brewery," he said. "When you look at (the Colorado Technology Center), it's a great place to deliver from, with all the major roads and arteries."
Gravity was the first
Gravity Brewing Co., tucked into the American Legion Post III building in Louisville, started the stampede of breweries to eastern Boulder County just over a year ago, serving up its heavy brand of beers beginning in August 2012. Twelve Degree Brewing, on Main Street in Louisville, and Front Range Brewing Co., in Lafayette Marketplace, both started production early this summer, while Lafayette's Odd13 Brewing opened for business a couple of months later.
At least three more breweries -- two in Erie and one in Lafayette -- are scheduled to pull the tap handle for the first time in the next half year.
Horst doesn't worry about crowding out the microbrew scene with too many people trying to do the same thing.
"I hear all the naysayers saying that the bubble is going to burst, but we don't even have 10 percent of the market yet," he said.
The Brewers Association says craft brewing sales share in 2012 was 6.5 percent by volume and 10.2 percent by dollars. The association reports that craft brewers sold an estimated 13.2 million barrels of beer last year, up from 11.5 million barrels the year before.
Tim Suttman, who co-owns Industrial Revolution Brewing Co. in Erie with his son, said "there's still room for everybody."
Suttman welcomes the impending arrival in Erie of The Old Mine Brewing Co. and a second location for Frederick-based Echo Brewing Co. He hopes all three beverage businesses can make the heart of Erie cool again.
"It will make Old Town Erie a destination again," he said.