Eddyline Brewery founders Mic and Molley Heynekamp have sold the operation they opened in Buena Vista in 2009 to two longtime employees, Brian England and Melissa McFee. The Heynekamps, who opened an Eddyline location in New Zealand in 2014, are moving to that country permanently.
The sale comes at an interesting time for the brewery, which has grown enough in the past two years that it is now approaching 15,000 barrels annually, a number that will put it in a separate class from other Colorado breweries and a separate designation as a "regional brewery," according to the Brewers Association.
"We've really grown up in the past year," says England, who helped open Eddyline in 2009 and is married to Mic's sister, Marcelle. In addition to a major rebranding of its logo and cans, Eddyline has tinkered with its beer lineup and released a beer calendar for its distributors and liquor stores recently for the first time in its existence.
England says the transaction made sense for both sides. "We worked with a firm that reaches out to venture capital groups to see if there was interest, and there was. But after weighing all the pros and cons, I think we all felt better doing the deal internally." The brewery isn't quite big enough to attract private equity investors, but it's also a little too big to make banks comfortable, so the deal will be financed by the Heynekamps.
"Brian and Melissa were the natural fit," says Mic Heynekamp. England had purchased Eddyline's original location in 2014 and became CEO of both spots the next year. McFee is a Buena Vista native and has been Eddyline's chief financial officer for the past five years. "They are the perfect team to take over the brewery."
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Heading into 2019, England says he and McFee will continue to make the kinds of small changes that they have been implementing over the past year or so, with the blessings of the previous owners. That includes some branding changes, supermarket sales, possible out-of-state distribution and new beer releases. Eddyline, for instance, is coming out with a canned Brut IPA, which is quickly becoming a popular style. Following trends hasn't been the norm for the brewery, but England says he is "trying to be a little more adventurous."
But the new owners plan to be cautious when it comes to growth. "The restaurant and taproom are doing well... The whole town is thriving, and more and more people are coming up here from the Front Range, and we are becoming more of a destination," England notes. Some other regional breweries in Colorado have been suffering from sales declines recently, though, which has England worried despite his own company's growth.
"We grew by 30 percent this year, but others are missing their marks, so we aren't going to try to grow super-fast and then see our own sales go flat," he explains.