Sadly, Colorado’s oldest indie brewer of the modern era, Boulder Beer Co., was struggling even before the pandemic started. It closed up its on-premise brewpub in January of last year, but its beers still live on. Way back in December 2019, Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. announced that it had formed a partnership with Boulder Beer Co. to keep its packaged beer brand in distribution and on store shelves without interruption. Sleeping Giant, which notes its the first and only dedicated contract brewery west of the Mississippi, is not only manufacturing Boulder’s brands, it has taken over distribution and marketing of the Boulder-based brewery’s brands.
To finalize its transition, Boulder Beer packaging is now getting a makeover, and damn, it looks mighty fine. From the press release:
When it came time to reimagine the new look and feel for Boulder Beer it was integral to [Matthew] Osterman [president and founder of Sleeping Giant] that the spirit of Boulder as a city and lifestyle be fully represented.
“The strategy we articulated for Boulder Beer, rather than resting on its OG laurels, was for the enterprise to reignite its pioneering flame and do so by tapping into the creative zeitgeist that is the city of Boulder and its people,” says Owsley.
“With the rebrand, each black & white photograph on every can is from a fellow Boulderite who used their lens to capture a viewpoint of Boulder’s inspiring natural setting,” continues Owsley. “Each design and color choice is hand-picked from the colors and textures that make up Boulder. Each beer, whether it’s an old favorite or a new concept, has been finessed to represent the hazed and infused memories that only the intertwined cultures of Boulder and Boulder Beer can bring.”
“We thought we needed to start fresh with an empty palette and reinvent,” says Duffy. “Boulder as a city has really evolved and we felt the brand should reflect that reinvention.”
First, consider this is what Boulder beers used to look like:
Below, see the excellent revamp. Beginning last week, these Boulder Beers were available in 28 states and five countries.
Boulder’s new story (via the press release) with sweet photography
One of America’s oldest and most storied craft beer brands is ready to reintroduce itself. Founded in 1979, Boulder Beer was not just the first small and independent craft brewery in Colorado, but one of the very first in the nation. Despite many firsts such as Hazed & Infused — a hazy ale launched a decade before the hazy craze — Boulder Beer and its 40-year history was in jeopardy when it was announced that the brewery had planned to end distribution in October 2019 and close its brewpub last January 2020.
When Matthew Osterman, President and Founder of Sleeping Giant heard the news of Boulder Beer’s closure, he approached owner Gina Day with an idea to keep the brand alive through an innovative partnership giving Sleeping Giant creative and operational control while preserving the original ideals of the brand. Born and raised in Boulder, Osterman came of (legal drinking) age on Boulder Beer and couldn’t imagine a world without beer from the Colorado brewery that started it all.
“Partially it was an emotional decision because I didn’t want to see Boulder Beer evaporate into the mist … Boulder Beer is quintessentially Boulder,” says Osterman. “It feels a bit surreal to carry on the Boulder Beer brand because it was such an iconic concept that loomed so large for so long. We’re now able to be the stewards of the brand not just for the city of Boulder, but also for craft beer as a whole.”
“I’m very happy to see Sleeping Giant putting in the energy to keep it thriving and current because it’s such an iconic brand,” says Day. “Matt and his team have the flexibility to create and build new recipes and build new brands, so as far as I see it, this is his brand, he’s the one creating, doing, and orchestrating”, continues Day.
In addition to updated branding, packaging, and production systems, Sleeping Giant has been given the opportunity to update recipes and add entirely new beers to the portfolio.
“We do still stay in communication and work together because we are partners. Matt touches base every couple of weeks and has hosted our former brewmaster, David Zuckerman, to taste through some of the beers, but he’s doing all the heavy lifting.”
Boulder Beer is bringing back some original favorites to include Hazed & Infused, Mojo, Shake Dark Chocolate Porter (including a year-round Nitro version) and SKO Buffalo Gold, an updated version of Buffalo Gold earmarked for Colorado distribution only. The featured innovation for 2021 is Bubbly By Nature Bubbly IPA, a new idea to capture the white space between easy-drinking Lagers, tropical IPAs, and the bubbly mouthfeel of Seltzers.
Hazed & Infused — The Original Hazy — The use of El Dorado, Mandarina Bavaria, CTZ, and Huell Melon creates a piney, earthy, floral accent underscored by a complex, dank, fruity backbone. — 5% ABV
Mojo — High Altitude IPA – Still driven by the use of Cascade hops, Mojo employs a mighty mix of hop bitterness and malt character that is rounded out by a citrus grapefruit finish. — 7.2% ABV
Shake — Dark Chocolate Porter — Using a blend of five different grains, this indulgent porter creates layers of velvety flavors blending notes of cream, cacao nibs, coffee and caramel. – 5.9% ABV
SKO — Buff Gold Beer — A mainstay since 1989, this is a beer that tastes like a beer. Updated to employ a lager yeast strain, SKO Buff Gold is crisp, clean and refreshing. — 4.8% ABV
Bubby By Nature — The Bubbly IPA – Tropical and juicy like an IPA, crisp and easy drinking like a lager, and more fruit-forward and lively like a hard seltzer. This innovative union between three popular styles results in its own naturally Bubbly style. — 4.5% ABV
Laws Whiskey Barrel-Aged Shake Dark Chocolate Porter — Made in collaboration with local Denver distillery Laws Whiskey House. A special limited release of their iconic Shake Dark Chocolate Porter, aged in Laws barrels. – 8.1% ABV
Boulder Than Ever Mixed 12 Pack — Featuring three 12-oz cans each: Hazed & Infused, Mojo, Shake, and Bubbly By Nature.
With production and innovation as his main focus, Osterman reconnected with industry veteran Dave Duffy, CCO at Stem Ciders and former Division Director at New Belgium Brewing, with the idea of developing a creative solution to support the sales and marketing for Boulder Beer. Under Duffy’s recommendation, Osterman turned to another industry titan in Greg Owsley, former Chief Branding Officer at New Belgium Brewing and founder of The Storied Brand, to consult on marketing strategy for the brand re-launch. In recognizing the clear opportunity for mutual growth and support, Osterman, Duffy and Stem Ciders Co-Founder, Eric Foster, came together with the idea of Boulder Beer partnering with Stem Ciders to handle the day-to-day sales and marketing for the re-launched brand.
“With our ability to sell and market both Boulder Beer and Stem Ciders, it becomes more efficient for wholesalers and retailers alike,” says Foster. “From a growth perspective, we’re able to help grow Boulder Beer in markets where we’re already well-established, and it also makes it easier for us to offer both brands as we enter new markets. It’s now one less sales person to have to deal with, one less sales meeting for distributors, and it makes it easy to bring on two great brands at once that both satisfy two different verticals. We think there’s extreme value from an efficiency standpoint.”