SweetWater Brewing, a 24-year-old Georgia mainstay, plans to open a big new brewery in Fort Collins as well as a taproom at Denver International Airport, bringing its 420 Extra Pale Ale to the Colorado greenbelt.
The brewery, which was purchased by Tilray, a Canadian cannabis company, in 2020, just announced that it will take over Red Truck Beer Company's location at 1020 East Lincoln Avenue in Fort Collins. Red Truck made a big splash in 2017 when it bought out the Fort Collins Brewery and revealed plans for a major packaging push as well as a location in Denver's RiNo Art District. But Red Truck, which is also based in Canada, has struggled lately, and remained closed after pandemic restrictions ended.
The Fort Collins location, which includes a large production facility and a restaurant, will allow SweetWater "to pursue major expansion plans across the U.S. and into the West Coast," the company says.
But first, the 32,450-square-foot space "will undergo an extensive renovation that will include operational enhancements to the brewing and packaging areas, an overall facelift for the taproom and restaurant as well as upgrades to the decor." Red Truck general manager Laird Mulderink will continue to run the facility under SweetWater; the company says it will offer jobs to Red Truck's staff.
This is the first time that a major U.S. craft brewery has opened a location in Colorado — something that Colorado breweries Oskar Blues and New Belgium have both done in North Carolina.
The company also plans to open SweetWater Mountain Taphouse in Concourse B at Denver International Airport as soon as this week, in partnership with Concessions International. This will be SweetWater's second airport bar; the first, SweetWater Last Call Bar and Grill, is in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It's an interesting move, considering that DIA has made a concerted effort lately to attract local vendors, including restaurants (Snooze just opened an outlet there last month), shops and breweries — and there is no shortage of other Colorado breweries that have wanted to be at the airport. It's also interesting because the airport hasn't allowed any cannabis-related items — even socks — to be sold in its gift shops in the past.
And it's a big part of the company's vibe, as Colorado Brewers Guild director Shawnee Adelson points out. “I think their branding aligns with what people think of as Colorado, with the 420 IPA,” says. But it also “shows that Colorado is still a great market for people to build breweries in. There are still opportunities.”
Sweetwater already has strong connections here, as its beers have been distributed in southwestern Colorado for a while, and it recently expanded distribution to the rest of the state. But the production facility will really build on that, Adelson continues. As for DIA, she says she is always happy to see craft breweries in airports.
"This exciting expansion with the opening of this state-of-the-art brewery in Colorado and SweetWater Mountain Taphouse at the Denver International Airport truly brings things full circle. This is where our team's brewing careers began nearly thirty years ago when we began washing kegs back in 1992 at Boulder Brewing Company while attending University of Colorado," says SweetWater founder Freddy Bensch in a statement on the deals. "The general vibe throughout Colorado aligns perfectly with who we are as a brand and SweetWater's passion for the great outdoors, embracing a 420 lifestyle and our motto — Don't Float the Mainstream."
SweetWater Brewing is the eleventh-largest craft brewery in the nation, according to the Brewers Association. In addition to 420 Extra Pale Ale, it makes beers like H.A.Z.Y. IPA, G13 IPA, High Light, Goin' Coastal IPA, Broken Coast BC Lager, and SweetWater Oasis Premium Hard Seltzer.
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