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Uhl’s Brewing, One of Colorado’s Brightest Risers Announces Upcoming Closure

Uhl’s Brewing, One of Colorado’s Brightest Risers Announces Upcoming Closure

It’s been a tumultuous week for Colorado’s craft beer industry. In the span of just two days, the Front Range saw a pair of highly regarded breweries in Mockery Brewery and Uhl’s Brewing announce their upcoming closures.

The Front Range has already experienced its share of brewery losses this year with Dos Luces’ announcing that its upcoming 5th anniversary on July 29th would be its last along with the shuttering of Counter Culture Brewery, MobCraft Beer, and Wah Gwan Brewing. However, this week’s closing announcement from Mockery hit a bit harder as it endured nine years of operation and was part of an early wave of breweries that helped establish the River North Art District as a true beer neighborhood destination. Similarly, Wednesday’s announcement from Uhl’s Brewery also sent shockwaves across Colorado’s beer landscape, as it had earned a bronze medal at this year’s World Beer Cup for its Coffee Roasters, and was widely regarded as one of the top risers in the state after opening just three years earlier.

Uhl’s Brewing founder, Aaron Uhl | Photo Courtesy of Uhl’s Brewing Facebook

Like many Boulder beer fans, Aaron Uhl first drew inspiration from afternoons spent in the alleyway of the original Avery Brewing location. Uhl first moved to Colorado in 1998 not to brew beer, but rather to chase the outdoors. As an avid mountain biker, Uhl was actually a semi-professional racer and even worked in the cycling industry before he was introduced to home brewing by a co-worker.

Like his passion for biking, Uhl dove in head first after that initial home brew session, but instead of taking the more common route of joining a home brew club, Uhl conducted his own extensive research, meticulously tinkering with recipes until it met his level of perfection. His fascination with this burgeoning industry would lead to early experiments with Hazy IPAs, and brewing his first barrel-aged Stout in 2012.

“At my last job I started talking about beer so much that my bosses eventually pushed me out,” laughed Uhl.

But it ended up being the motivation he needed to hone his craft even further. After years of winning countless home brew competitions, Uhl was able to convince the team at Sanitas Brewing to allow him to brew on their system as a “gypsy brewery” to help launch Uhl’s Brewing Co in 2018. He would eventually go on to open his own brick-and-mortar brewery in the space previously occupied by Wild Woods Brewing, with hopes of carving out a niche focusing on Hazy IPAs and big barrel-aged beers in addition to their wide-ranging styles that include Lagers and Sours.

“One of the reasons I started the brewery was because Avery essentially left town,” explained Uhl. “They left everything that they were back in the alley, and I realized that their barrel program just wasn’t the same anymore.” 

Photo Courtesy of Uhl’s Brewing Facebook

Uhl hoped he could fill the gap of a local brewery specializing in barrel-aged beers after Avery sold to Mahou. However, the brewery faced adversity right out of the gate, opening its doors on March 14, 2020, before having to close a week later with the onset of the pandemic.

And while Uhl’s would attempt to weather the storm by packaging beer to-go with Codi canning, Uhl also noted that they would have to do so without the support of any PPP loans. But the setbacks wouldn’t end there. After originally signing with a local distributor, Uhl’s would eventually decide to pull distro back in-house citing a lack of adequate sales support.

However, perhaps the largest factor in Uhl’s eventual demise could be directed toward a common issue faced by many small businesses in a myriad of staffing issues.

“We’ve held on to a number of employees for a long period of time, including my assistant brewer, who had been with me since day one,” said Uhl. “I worked extremely hard to create a work atmosphere like the ones I wanted to work in as an employee.”

And while a wave of unsuccessful hires that ranged from sales managers, to front of house managers, and marketing members resulted in untimely departures for a number of unrelated reasons, this setbacks would eventually compound leaving Uhl’s constantly facing an even greater uphill battle.

12-2022 Coffee Stout Blind Tasting Uhls Brewing Coffee Roasters
Photo credit: Tristan Chan

Even still, Uhl himself believed that their unwavering commitment to “quality beer, and quality service” would prevail against all other headwinds and there were glimmers of that truth. Despite only entering one beer in the 2023 World Beer Cup in March, that singular entry would be recognized with a bronze medal at the highest level of competition. And financially it was looking brighter in the first half of the year as well. From January through May, the brewery was up 18% in sales from that same period just a year earlier. But then the rain came.

In the month of June, Colorado experienced one of its highest periods of precipitation in years. “We’re a big patio-centric brewery, and a lot of people in Boulder haven’t fully felt comfortable sitting indoors since the pandemic, so we took a massive hit in June,” explained Uhl. In all, the brewery saw a decline of $15,000 in the month of June compared to the previous year, and ultimately signaled the final blow for the brewery.

“The craft beer community is getting dropped hard right now and I dont know why,” said Uhl. “A lot of sales of niche beers have slowed. People aren’t spending $12.99 on craft Lagers when they can spend $8.99 on something else.”

Over the last few months, Uhl attempted a last-ditch effort to save the brewery by seeking out investors, even offering up all of his shares in the company, but has yet to find an interested party willing to commit.

On Wednesday, Uhl’s announced that they’ll be closing their doors with one last hurrah on August 5th by pulling over 19 barrel-aged beers from their cellars as well as a 20% discount on all packaged beer to-go and 10% off all draft beers. Their barrel-aged cellar releases include:

– Barrel Aged Fluffernutter
– King Billy (all three barrels)
– Peanut Butter Barrel’d Treat
– Bramble Barrel’d Treat
– Chocolate & Vanilla Barrel’d Treat
– Coffee & Vanilla Barrel’d Treat
– Coconut Barrel’d Treat
– Barrel Aged Maple Harvest
– Vanilla & Cinnamon Barrel’d Treat
– Deep Dark Depths 21, 22, 23
– Deep Dark Depths Antique
– Deep Dark Depths Rye
– Tahitian Vanilla Barrel’d Treat
– CO Beverage Co. Barrel’d Stout
– Old Elk Barrel’d Stout

And while there still the hail mary hope that an investor jump in at the last second to help salvage the brewery Uhl has found a bit of solace in the support of the friends he’s made in the beer industry over the last several years who will help the brand live on with collaboration releases well past the brewery’s closure.

Breweries like River North, WestFax, Coda Brewing, Twisted Pine and more have teamed up with Uhl’s to help adopt his remaining stock in barrels and will be releasing those specialty collaborations throughout the rest of the year as a nod to their friendship and his incredible brewing accomplishments.

But until then, Uhl hopes that fans of the brewery will come out and celebrate their three years of operation one last time between now and August 6th to say their goodbyes and cheers with some final beers.

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