Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Wynkoop and Breckenridge Brewery groups brew up a joint venture: Update

Two weeks ago, the merger of local Rock Bottom Brewing with the Tennessee-based Gordon Biersch brewpub chain formed one of the largest craft-beer-focused companies in the country: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries.

And now, as we reported earlier today, another big deal in the works: The Wynkoop Restaurant Group, which started with the flagship Wynkoop Brewing Co. 22 years ago, and Breckenridge Brewing, which moved into LoDo not long after, are now coming together in a joint venture.

The deal will put both companies' existing properties under a new umbrella, although they'll all keep their current identities. In the Wynkoop's case, that's the Wynkoop Brewing Co., which John Hickenlooper helped found in 1988 (he was bought out of any restaurant ownership three years ago); the ka-ching Cherry Cricket; Goosetown Tavern; Pearl Street Grill; Gaetano's; and Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs. As for Breckenridge, its restaurants include the original brewpub in Breckenridge, the Ale House in Grand Junction, Breckenridge Blake Street Pub in the Ballpark neighborhood, and the Breckenridge Brewery outpost at 471 Kalamath Street. But that location has something more notable than good beer and barbecue: a facility capable of canning or bottling about 60,000 barrels of beer a year, when it's doing only 30,000 right now.

The expanded canning possibilities -- and Breckenridge's experience in selling its beer outside of its restaurants -- reportedly made the deal very attractive to the Wynkoop group, which has been canning beers in its flagship brewpub but would like to expand its production -- and its marketing of those beers outside of Colorado.

And there's another attractive opportunity involved: Amato Ale House, Breckenridge's in-the-works brewpub going in the site of the old statuary store at the edge of Highland, which will now be part of the joint venture. Amato plans to have forty beers on tap, 90 percent of them Colorado beers -- and many of them competitors.

If any competitors remain after this merger madness subsides, that is. Here's the official Breckenridge announcement:

Denver, CO - December 1, 2010 - Breckenridge Holding Company, the owner and operator of the Breckenridge Brewery and other food and beverage concepts, announces plans to enter into a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Wynkoop Holdings, Inc., the Denver-based owner of seven brewpubs and restaurants located in Denver and Colorado Springs. The combined management strength, brand portfolio, and talent of these two Colorado craft beer icons will enable each entity to compete even more effectively in the craft beer and restaurant markets. Breckenridge and Wynkoop expect the joint venture to be finalized in January 2011.

Breckenridge Holding Company will continue to invest in growth and marketing opportunities for Breckenridge Brewery and its Breckenridge Ale House concept. Ed Cerkovnik, President of Breckenridge Holding Company, summarizes the key benefits of the agreement: "Both Breckenridge and Wynkoop companies have rich Colorado histories with similar, yet distinct, cultures. This joint venture captures the synergies of these two successful Denver-based companies. Combining 14 wholly and partially owned subsidiaries under one umbrella gives us the leverage to build a stronger, more diverse, company." Cerkovnik added that "the combined company provides us with the platform through which we can more effectively pursue growth and expansion of our respective brands and restaurant concepts."

Wynkoop Holdings, Inc. is led by Lee Driscoll, its CEO and controlling shareholder. "This is a partnership Ed and I have discussed for years; the timing is finally right for making it happen. On the brewing side it means we can quickly grow our canning and self-distribution effort, with help from experienced craft beer veterans. We can get Wynkoop beer to more people without the time and expense of building a new brewery. This also adds a quartet of devoutly beer-minded establishments to our family, and provides a quick dose of depth and shared talent to our beer and food culture."

"Plus," Driscoll adds, "it puts two like-minded craft beer pioneers of our state on the same team. Together, our potential for adding to Colorado's beer culture is very big."

Wynkoop Holdings operating units consist of the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Phantom Canyon Brewing Company, Wazee Supper Club, Goosetown Tavern, Cherry Cricket, Pearl Street Grill, and Gaetano's. Wynkoop Brewing Company, Colorado's first brewpub, was founded in 1988 by Denver mayor and Colorado governor-elect John Hickenlooper and a group of urban pioneers that included Mark Schiffler (current Wynkoop COO) and Ron Robinson (Wynkoop's current GM).

Breckenridge Holding Company operates seven wholly and partially owned businesses, all of which are located in Colorado, including the Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado, a regional craft brewery in Denver; Breckenridge Brewery & Pub, a brewpub in Breckenridge; the Breckenridge Blake Street Pub located in the Ballpark Neighborhood of Denver; Breckenridge Brewery and BBQ, located in the Golden Triangle area of Denver; and the Breckenridge Ale House in Grand Junction. A second Breckenridge Ale House is scheduled to open in the spring of 2011 in the Lower Highlands area of Denver. Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado handcrafts nearly 30,000 barrels of fresh beer annually and distributes its beer in 28 states.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun