Most people assume that owning a brewery in Colorado is like living the dream. You get to make beer, talk beer, drink beer, sleep beer and hang out with your beer-loving friends all day and night. What could be better than that? The reality, though, says one Denver brewery owner who asked to remain anonymous, is that running a brewery is just like running any other business. It's hard work — and it's not for everyone.
Denver's most recent brewery craze began in 2010, when Strange Craft Beer Company opened its doors. Since then, more than five dozen other breweries have followed suit, so it makes sense that seven years down the line, some of those brewery owners might want to move on to something different. In Colorado, craft breweries have been up and running for a couple of decades now, and some of the original owners are ready for retirement.
The result is a wave of ownership changes at small breweries that began last year and is picking up steam. At least four small breweries have changed hands in the past twelve months. They include Elk Mountain Brewing in Parker, Pug Ryan's Brewery in Dillon, J Wells Brewing in Boulder and 1933 Brewing in Fort Collins.
Several others have closed, including Mu Brewery in Aurora, Pateros Creek Brewing in Fort Collins, Zulu Brewing in Montrose, Shine Brewing in Boulder, Walnut Brewing in Boulder, and Triple S Brewing in Colorado Springs. Fort Collins Brewery, which was one of the largest beer makers in the state, also closed down after its buildings and equipment were purchased by Canada's Red Truck Brewing.
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But there are at least eight Colorado breweries currently for sale, most of them in metro Denver. All of them have given only vague descriptions (in the sales listings) of where they are located and who they might be. The reason for this, say several of the brewery owners, is because they don't want to upset employees and customers. In addition, negotiations can be complicated and touchy, especially when it comes to finances and legal agreements.
The following are some of the classified listings, all of them anonymous, that have gone online in the past year; most required potential buyers to sign a nondisclosure agreement before the owner would identify themselves. Some of these listings are no longer valid, while others have been taken down. But together, they provide an interesting perspective on what some brewery owners are looking for when it comes time to move on.
Northern Denver Suburb
Sale price: N/A
This four-year-old brewery has a twenty-barrel brewhouse in a large, flexible space. The brewery "is located on a busy street" close to public transportation and "has great potential for growth." The current owners have agreed to help the new owners start brewing right away.
Sale price: $225,000
Located in "a very popular central Denver neighborhood with high foot and vehicle traffic," this small but fully-equipped brewery comes with a custom ten-barrel brewhouse, several tanks, sixteen taps and a patio. The brewery is only producing a fraction of the beer that it could make and hasn't done wholesale distribution.
Sale price: $249,000
"A turn-key brewery... located in one of Denver’s hottest neighborhoods," this establishment has an agreement with a local distributor to sell its beers and great employees. The seller "is willing to stay on for the transition and training period." The brewery would be a good fit for someone without much experience.
Denver Area Brewery
Sale price: $975,000
A brewery that is operating at only 50 percent of its capacity and has the room to grow by 30 percent in its current space. "Lease rates are well below current market and locked in for 6 more years. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are included in sale price. Current owners would work for hourly wages after sale.
Sale price: $1.2 million
This popular brewpub, which has an extensive menu, "started many years ago" and "has grown into a prolific brewpub and restaurant with 30-40 full time employees (seasonal) serving 100-200 locals and visiting tourists each day." Located in a busy area, the brewpub produces more than thirty different kinds of beer annually.
Colorado Ski Country Brewpub
Sale price: $1.35 million
This award-winning brewery and restaurant seats 225 people and has great views. It comes equipped with a fifteen-barrel brewing system, two hundred barrels worth of fermentation space and all of the fixtures, furniture and equipment needed. The brewery owner is looking to retire after two decades in business.
Suburban Denver Brewpub
Sale price: Reduced from $2 million to $1.5 million
This "highly profitable" 3,000-square-foot brewpub includes a patio, "strong brand recognition" and wholesale distribution of its beer. Located in an affluent Denver suburb, it has a large menu, numerous TVs and a family-friendly atmosphere. The owners will offer two weeks of training to make for a smooth transition.
Denver Area Brewery
Sale price: $2.7 million
A well-established brewery with a large brewhouse, a patio, dedicated clientele, award-winning recipes and a large customer base. The brewery also distributes beer outside of its premises both in kegs and packages. The owner has agreed to help the buyer get up and running for as long as it takes.