Changes to the craft-beer industry in Fort Collins have been coming at breathtaking speed over the past six months, but the latest change is one of the biggest and one of the strangest.
Last week, Red Truck Beer Company, a brewery from Vancouver, Canada, announced that it had purchased the building and equipment at Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, one of the twenty largest beer makers in Colorado at one time, and that it plans to shut it down and reopen early in the spring of 2018 under the Red Truck brand.
“We could see that Fort Collins was the epicenter for first-class brewing in the U.S.,” Red Truck owner Mark James said in a statement about why he chose Fort Collins over cities in the rest of the United States. “There is an amazing community of brewers and connoisseurs here, and we are excited to become a part of the community.”
Red Truck executives have so far declined to talk with Westword, but the company did imply in its statement that it won't retain the existing staff unless it can find “opportunities to contract-brew.” Fort Collins Brewery has contract-brewed for a variety of other beer makers in the past, including New Planet Brewing and Uberbrew in Montana.
No one from Fort Collins Brewery, including president Tina Peters, returned phone calls seeking comment for this story, and employees who answered the phone said they aren’t allowed to talk. The only statement was from sales director Josh Hall, who provided the following:
With a heavy heart the Peters’ family announce the Fort Collins Brewery will be closing it doors in July. After several months of looking for a brewery partner to invest in our brand and facility, FCB sold to Red Truck Beer out of Vancouver, B.C. During this transition, the FCB brand will be phased out. We were very excited to work alongside Red Truck Beer and disappointed to make this announcement.
FCB will continue to operate supplying quality, fresh beer through July, in addition to allowing our staff time and assistance in finding new career options. We thank all of our partners, vendors and most importantly customers for the tremendous support over the past 13-plus years.
However, an FCB spokesman was quoted by the Porchdrinking blog last week as saying that FBC had been under the impression that Red Truck would keep the FCB brand alive. He also told the blog that FCB had “entertained a number of offers in recent months; however, all other offers were also met with interest solely in retaining the physical property and not the brand itself.”
Discerning the truth about this — and about what will happen to the staff — could be paramount, though, because in the new era of craft-beer mergers and buyouts, consumers are making choices based on who owns breweries, along with the business practices of those companies. Beer drinkers in Fort Collins have many other places to choose from — there are at least 22 breweries in the city — so it remains to be seen how they will react to a foreign company shutting down an old brand.
In the past few years, some of craft brewing’s biggest names have been purchased by a wide variety of buyers, from Molson Coors and AB InBev to Heineken, Corona and Duvel, with private equity firms and even other craft breweries getting in on the shopping spree. In Colorado, Breckenridge Brewery was bought out by AB InBev in 2015, one of ten breweries that the corporation has purchased. Oskar Blues, meanwhile, was purchased by Boston’s Fireman Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and then went on to buy two other breweries — Perrin in Michigan and Florida’s Cigar City. And finally, Durango Brewing got a new owner in 2016, when another investment group bought it.
Founded years earlier under another name, FCB was purchased in 2004 by Tom and Jan Peters, who grew it steadily, adding beers and increasing the distribution range of bottles and kegs by more than ten other states. In 2010, FCB built a new $4 million, 30,000-square-foot brewery and restaurant. Three years later, the brewery replaced its twenty-barrel brewhouse with a fifty-barrel system and added a canning line.
But FCB struggled to find its footing after that, as more and more breweries opened in Fort Collins, in Colorado and across the country. Although the brewery won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Oktoberfest in 2015, production has fallen off from its peak.
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The beer news from Fort Collins has been hot and heavy over the past few months. Three other Fort Collins breweries have announced in recent months that they were suspending operations, while Odell Brewing revealed that it will open a new brewery in Denver's River North neighborhood. And finally, longtime New Belgium brewmaster Peter Bouckaert announced last week that he was leaving to launch his own project in town.
Red Truck was founded in 2005 and is best known, according to Red Truck, "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." The company brews 20,000 barrels of beer annually, including Red Truck Lager, Red Truck Ale, Red Truck IPA, and seasonal Red Truck Golden Ale, and is distributed throughout British Columbia and Alberta in Canada.
Here is the rest of the brewery's statement:
The craft brewery and restaurant affectionately known as the “Truck Stop,” will look at serving brands such as their Blackberry Bourbon Ale, Northwest Strong Ale, Ryzenshein Kettle Sour Gose, and Lemon Curacao Smash IPA, in addition to their flagship beers. The fueling station also offers a full menu of tasty twists on classic favorites such as burgers, poutine + white gravy, wings, and all day eggs. In Vancouver, the Truck Stop on their 2 acre site is well-known for great live music, from weekly shows in the diner, to a series of all-day festivals which draw upwards of 1,500 fans to watch rock, country, and R&B acts in the sunshine.