Beer has always been one of Canada’s best-known exports, thanks in part to Molson, Moosehead, Labatt and the movie Strange Brew. But over the next two years, Canada will export an entire brewery — to Colorado.
In May, Vancouver’s Red Truck Beer Company revealed that it had purchased Fort Collins Brewery and Tavern and that it would shut down the operation and rebrand it as a Red Truck “Truck Stop.” But the company’s plans don’t stop there. Red Truck has also purchased .43 acres and the 8,575-square-foot building at 3601 Brighton Boulevard, just a block from the Great Divide Brewing Barrel Bar in the River North Arts District, where it plans to build a second, smaller brewery and open a second taproom in 2019.
“Colorado is the center of craft beer in the United States, and we are really excited about being part of the community down there,” says Red Truck general manager Jim Dodds. “We understand that it is a highly competitive market, but it has such a good feel to it. We think our brand will do well there.”
Founded in 2005 by Canadian businessman Mark James, Red Truck is known for its vintage red trucks and its Truck Stop restaurant and brewery. The company brews 20,000 barrels of beer annually, including Red Truck Lager, Red Truck Ale and Red Truck IPA; it distributes primarily in British Columbia and Alberta.
Red Truck plans to duplicate its concept and branding in Fort Collins, where it will also have live music and all-day beer festivals. The brewery will make a variety of seasonal and specialty beers, too, including Lemon Curacao Smash IPA, Blackberry Bourbon Ale, Northwest Strong Ale and Ryzenshein Kettle Sour Gose. Dodds says the brewery will package its beer in cans and bottles and plans to focus on distribution in Colorado.
But the move to Colorado got off to a rocky start. When the news got out about the purchase, it was presented as a brewery buyout, similar to others that have taken place recently. In this case, though, Fort Collins Brewery, which has been run by Tom and Jan Peters since 2004, implied that the acquisition was supposed to have been a merger that would have allowed Fort Collins Brewery to continue making beer under its own name.
Former FCB spokesman Josh Hall told the Porchdrinking blog that the brewery had been under the impression that Red Truck would keep the FCB brand alive. “We had been in talks with Red Truck Beer over the past few months to complete a merger with FCB, but once that deal went through, we were disappointed to learn that they have decided to phase out the FCB brand completely,” he told the blog.
Hall later told Westword in an email, “The plan with [the Red Truck] deal for months was to continue the FCB brand. It was with every intention to keep the FCB brand going in the marketplace. At what seems to be an eleventh-hour decision, we were informed that the FCB brand would immediately be phased out.” He added that FCB had entertained a number of sales offers in previous months, but that they had all been turned down right away because “they didn’t include the continuation of the FCB brand.”
The Peters family didn’t return calls to Westword seeking comment at that time.
Red Truck also provided little comment on the details of the sale, but Dodds now says that Red Truck never planned to merge with FCB or keep the company’s brand. “It was just an asset purchase. We bought the building and the equipment. That is all. Our intentions were always to have the Red Truck brand in Colorado.” Red Truck didn’t buy FCB's name, recipes or other intellectual property, he adds.
Construction and renovations to the FCB building should begin in the early fall, and Red Truck hopes to be able to open by March 2018. If it can get up and running “sooner rather than later,” Dodds says, the brewery would like to hire back some FCB staff members if they are still available.
Once that project is complete, Red Truck will turn its attention to Denver. For the RiNo property, Dodds says Red Truck will keep the old brick building that is part of the site and build a smaller brewery and tasting room.
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“As an up-and-coming neighborhood, [RiNo] will continue to grow, so it makes sense for us to be there,” Dodds says. “Our primary location will be in Fort Collins, but this will be our second one.”
Red Truck bought the property from Linda and Steve Kraskey, whose family has owned it since 1958; it was most recently home to Paul’s Custom Grinding Service, an auto machine shop that seemed like a good fit for Red Truck since the brewery says it is known for its vintage red trucks, “which represent those simpler times when life moved more slowly and people took the time to stop and enjoy the moment.” Dodds says the family had several offers for the property, but chose Red Truck because they liked that ethos.
The site is located just a block from Great Divide’s massive campus and two blocks from Mockery Brewing. It is also just down the street from Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and the planned future location of New Belgium’s pilot brewery and wood-aging facility inside the Source Hotel, which is under construction.
Red Truck hopes to begin construction on the Denver brewery in late 2018 and to open in 2019.