Beer in Review 2015: Brian O’Connell of Renegade Brewing

As 2015 comes to a close, we’re once again asking leading figures on the Colorado beer scene to reflect on the past year and look ahead to next.

This next installment in our 5th annual Beer In Review features Brian O’Connell, founder and owner of Renegade Brewing in Denver. Renegade has been a stalwart in Denver, opening in 2008 when there were only eight craft breweries in the city. Now, the brewery continues to grow, adding a new facility and releasing more products.

Now, onto Brian’s picks:

Favorite beer of the year: When I’m not drinking beer I love to have a Manhattan. I was out in Portland for the Craft Brewers Conference and went to Cascade Brewing and found a beer that mimicked the qualities of a Manhattan. The aroma alone from that beer was almost enough to satisfy, but of course I had to have a couple of them just to be sure I liked it.

Colorado brewery of the year: Cannonball Creek Brewing: Brian Hutchinson and Jason Stengl are great brewers who are quietly making awesome beers. Everything they make is consistently good. They are super nice people who are making a solid professional and creative contribution to Colorado brewing.

New Colorado brewery of the year: I have to go with Spangalang Brewery. Taylor Rees, Austin Wiley and Darren Boyd are making some great beers and their brewery is a really fun place to hang out. Plus there is a great sense of vindication you get from relaxing and drinking a beer in the former Division of Motor Vehicles office.

Colorado brewery to watch in 2016: Former Future’s Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales is definitely one to watch. They have had a lot of success, including winning a Great American Beer Festival medal in 2015. They are fast becoming a leader in Colorado in wild and sour ales.

Most notable craft beer news or trend of 2015: Big money! Wow, Heineken paid an undisclosed amount (but likely at least $400 million) for 50 percent of Lagunitas, Constellation (makers of Corona) paid $1 billion, yes with a B for 100 percent of Ballast Point, not to mention the handful of other purchases carried out by ABInBev. There is big money coming into the “craft” beer industry. It is getting harder and harder for beer drinkers to know if they are purchasing from an independent brewer or a large corporation. Additionally, a federal judge ruled that any beer from any brewer can be referred to as a “craft” beer. All of this leads to a dilution of the term craft and confusion for beer drinkers.

Craft beer trend to watch for in 2016: Big is the trend for 2016. The number of small breweries opening up is slowing down and will continue to slow in 2016. Several breweries in our state recently completed big expansions or are in the midst of big expansions. Big money will continue to enter the “craft” beer industry and will take the brands they purchase to national and international markets. It will become common to see large scale advertising for brands that are being purchased by large corporations. You don’t spend $1 billion dollars without some plans for big returns on that investment.

Here are previous entries:

Troy Casey from Casey Brewing and Blending.
Lauren Salazar from New Belgium Brewing Co. 
Darren Boyd of Spangalang Brewery.
Andy Parker of Avery Brewing. 
Nick Nunns of TRVE Brewing.
Drew and Leah Watson of Hops and Pie Pizzeria & Craft Beer Taproom.
David Lin of Comrade Brewing Co.
Matt Thrall of Left Hand Brewing.
Eli Kolondy and Tony Rau of Odell Brewing. 
Jesse Brookstein of Call to Arms Brewing. 
Tommy Bibliowicz of 4 Noses Brewing. 
Sam Scruby of Upslope Brewing. 
James Howat of Former Future Brewing Co.