Founded in the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains in 1990, Breckenridge Brewing has always been one of the craft brewing companies that defined Colorado. But now, as Breckenridge deals with the rejection of a proposed law that would have helped it grow in Colorado, the brewery's ties to Colorado hang in the balance.
The Denver Business Journal reported today that Breckenridge "will look to build its new brewery on the East Coast, taking with it 50 to 75 jobs that otherwise would have been created in the Denver area." The paper quoted company president Ed Cerkovnik, who runs the restaurant side of the business.
Not so fast, says Todd Usry, brewmaster and operations manager. "We will be evaluating all of our options over the next couple of days."
In April, Usry announced that Breckenridge planned to leave its Denver headquarters for a brand-new, 125,000-square-foot brewery, tasting room, restaurant and visitors center that it planned to build on ten acres in the metro area, possibly near Littleton. The estimated $15 million project would enable the company to make 100,000 barrels of beer per year from the outset, and as much as 200,000 barrels down the road.
But the brewery also needed help from the state legislature, which was considering a measure, House Bill 1347, that would have allowed brewpubs -- businesses that operate breweries and restaurants on the same site -- to increase the amount of beer they make from 60,000 to 300,000 barrels per year without changing their business model.
Breckenridge is currently the only Colorado brewery that's maxed out under the law. Other large brewery/restaurants -- like Oskar Blues, Rock Bottom, and Mountain Sun -- operate under different arrangements and with different licenses.
But that bill will likely die this week without any more discussion after a coalition of other brewers -- both large and small -- opposed it, saying it would give Breckenridge an unfair business advantage.
Now, it appears that everything is on the table, including a move to the East Coast or a restructuring of the company that would allow Breckenridge to expand in another way.
Breckenridge is the fifth largest craft brewer in Colorado. Two of the larger ones, New Belgium (1st) and Oskar Blues (2nd) have announced plans to open new facilities, both in North Carolina in the coming years in order to help them grow.