Colorado cideries, distilleries say likely law change will open up drinkers’ options

Of Colorado’s 116 distilleries, only six are classified as “pubs” — that is, they are licensed to sell a wide array of booze with a restaurant or affiliated food truck on site.

But if SB21-270 passes this year — and with bipartisan sponsors, it should — the number of pubs will likely skyrocket, benefitting distillers and cideries.

“We believe that five years from now instead of four or five percent having pub licenses, we believe it’ll be more like 50%, maybe 70%,” said Stephen Gould, a board member for the Colorado Distillers Guild.

Cideries and distilleries can operate as pubs and restaurants now, but alcohol production limits for distillery pubs and wine and cider restaurants are too small for most producers to even consider.

For example, Stem Ciders, with locations in Denver and Lafayette, produces about 500,000 gallons per year, owner Eric Foster said. To qualify for the right to serve other types of alcohol like beer or spirits or booze from from out-of-state, Stem would need to produce no more than 250,000 gallons of cider per year.

This year’s bill proposes to raise the limit to nearly a million gallons for wineries and cideries. For distilleries, the limit would be raised from 45,000 liters per year to 875,000 liters per year.

“Right now, there just aren’t strong, functioning licenses with the caps they have,” said Foster, who is also president of the Colorado Cider Guild. “What this bill allows us to do is change over our retail experience, to really change the on-premise experience.”