DENVER – The craft brewing industry is really fermenting in Colorado.
Craft brewers are on a double-digit growth trajectory, according to the non-profit trade group Colorado Brewers Guild. The group commissioned a study from the University of Colorado in Boulder which found the industry is providing a $446 million boost to the state's economy and 5,800 jobs.
"We know we're significant. We know we're making changes. We know we're creating jobs. We know we're pumping money into the economy" said the guild's spokesman, Steve Kurowski. Nationally, it is estimated craft brewers currently provide an estimated 103,585 jobs in the United States.
Industry reps credit the consumers for their growth. Craft customers like to support the local sense of community, "..that's what people are really gravitating to, what beer drinkers are really loving, what's going on behind the scenes and what does into that glass, not just the liquid that's in there, but all the effort and soul that goes there, these small businesses are putting in," Kurowski said.
Craft beer accounts for 5 percent of beer sales nationwide. Kurowski said the high ceiling for development is attracting business people's attention.
"Nationally craft beer is on about a 13 percent growth pattern, but we feel in Colorado we're above that," he said. "We have some large breweries growing as high as 30 and 40 percent."
It's not just the brew masters or plant workers hustling product from the bottling line to the trucks who collect paychecks. Kurowski tells Fox News that craft beer is like any other small business with a wide range of jobs: accountants, sales reps, marketing, mechanics, welders and even lawyers for dealing with heavy regulation.
Craft brewers are defined as smaller-producing, as they make less than six million barrels of beer a year and are independently owned. It's significant every time these operations add a handful of jobs.
Breckenridge Brewery says it grew 42 to 43 percent in 2011. They have added 10 new full-time positions at the brewery. Within the next six months, they expect to add another five to eight full-time staff. Plus, their restaurants have boosted 135-140 jobs. Now, the brewery is mapping out new real estate because it expects to outgrow its current plant within the next 18 months.
"They're in their 30s, they're in their 40s, they're in their 50s and even some people that have retired are looking just to sweep the floors. They want to become part of this industry and really create a new life for themselves" said Todd Thibault, Breckenridge Brewery's marketing director.
And that's what happened for Patrick Crawford.
He had a good day job before co-founding Denver Beer Co. last year. "I was an engineer for Lockheed Martin for five years and on some top secret satellites," he said.
Crawford and his business partner Charlie Berger were swamped day one, as family members were tapped on the spot to bus tables, wash glasses and tote out the trash.
"We quickly realized that we needed to hire some more folks," Berger said. They started with six people on their team and have grown to fifteen since last August. Denver Beer Co. has added more giant fermenters for brewing capacity to keep up with demand from thirsty drinkers in the beer garden.
Industry insiders say for those who want to get a job in craft beer, check out career links on websites of your local breweries. The Brewers Association says the majority of Americans live within ten miles of a brewery. Colorado alone has 75 more craft breweries in the planning stages.