In a sign of how competitive the craft-beer industry has become — and of how creative craft brewers can be when it comes to collaborative small-business tactics — the owners of Renegade Brewing and the Good River Beer Company are merging to create a larger entity called the Brewers Co-Hop.
Once the paperwork is done — and there is plenty of that — Renegade will continue to operate under its own name at 925 West Ninth Avenue, where it has maintained a brewery and taproom for eight years. Good River, meanwhile, which has been contract-brewing its beer for the past four years, will get its own taproom for the first time by renovating part of Renegade's large production space in the Yard at Santa Fe, at 918 West First Avenue.
Then the two breweries, along with a new startup beer maker called Rocky Mountain Sector, plan to open a third location — a restaurant and taproom — in Olde Town Arvada that will be called the Brewers Co-Hop. The address hasn't been announced yet, but it will serve beer from all three breweries.
Complicated? Yes. But it will make more sense once all three locations are up and running. And the moves made sense for all three companies, says Good River co-founder Adam Odoski.
Renegade Brewing co-founder Brian O'Connell echoed that sentiment, but declined to comment further, as he has decided to step down from his day-to-day role with the brewery. Instead, he will serve on the Co-Hop's board of directors, helping with overall strategic vision. O'Connell has been a prominent and outspoken part of the craft-beer industry for several years; he just gave up his seat on the board of the Colorado Brewers Guild earlier this year.
The deal came together because Renegade needed to unload the $1.4 million, 15,000-square-foot production facility that it had built out in 2015, when sales were growing by double digits. When sales slowed in 2016, as they did for many packaging breweries, Renegade found itself in a difficult financial position. It sold a portion of the company to Silver Fox Partners, an investment group, in 2017, and put the production space on the market in 2018. At the time, O'Connell hoped to open several smaller taprooms and transition his business model.
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Good River, for its part, has never had a tap room, though it has been looking for a space since launching in 2015. In 2017, the owners thought they had secured a location on South Bannock Street, but the deal fell through. In the interim, the company brewed and canned its beers at a variety of locations, including Prost Brewing and Sleeping Giant, and distributed them all over the Front Range. Moving into the First Avenue spot will give Good River a significant retail presence and allow it to ramp up production at the location.
Renegade and Good River brew a wide variety of canned beer styles, and although each brewery works with a different distributor, they'll be able to leverage their sales staffs and combined brands. They will also be able to use the significant brewing capacity at the First Avenue location to produce a large volume of beer — something that has become more important in Colorado now that supermarkets and convenience stores are allowed to sell full-strength suds; the big chains rely on breweries that can produce consistent quantities.
Rocky Mountain Sector, meanwhile, is a very small startup brewery that has been making beer at the First Avenue space for several months. The company is partially owned by Mark Berzins of the Little Pub Company, and has been tapping some of its beers, including Rocko Wit and Hauser Hazy IPA, at some Little Pub-owned locations like Don's Club Tavern and Wyman's No. 5.