Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery reaches 35 states and produced 64,000 barrels of beer last year, which puts it at number 50 by sales volume on the Brewers Association’s ranking of U.S. craft breweries. Yet while those numbers are impressive, they put some restraints on Breckenridge’s ability to be creative.
Last year the brewery was at max capacity and had to shift away from one-offs and less popular beers to focus on its flagships. For a brewery whose roots trace back to a small brewpub in its namesake of Breckenridge, Colorado, that was a problem, but with a new $36 million, 85,000 square foot campus in Littleton, Colorado, the solution is now in place.
Born in a still-popular mountain brewpub in 1990, Breckenridge quickly expanded by adding a manufacturing facility in downtown Denver in 1992. Production has been humming along there ever since, but anticipating 30 percent growth in volume in 2015, Breckenridge knew the downtown building couldn’t keep up. Having found an idyllic plot of land 10 miles south of downtown, the brewery is moving out of Denver and into suburban Littleton.
“Our preference would have been to stay in Denver proper,” says Breckenridge’s Terry Usry, but the the company found a picturesque location, just off the Mary Carter Greenway Trail and South Platte River in Littleton. “It happened to be 11 acres,” she notes. “It didn’t necessarily have to be that big but we’re thrilled we’ve got that much space.” It gives options for growth and matches their brand philosophy to stay close to their customers. “There was definitely some appeal to keep the Denver facility and open something on the East Coast,” Usry says, as it would have helped serve their East Coast customers, but they preferred to keep operations under one roof.
Breckenridge is taking full advantage of their newfound acreage. First, it allows them to double capacity immediately, with room for ample expansion. They have three separate buildings for different arenas of the business. There is an office building and brewhouse, another building for fermentation and packaging, and in their third building is a new 300-seat restaurant, The Farm House, which will grow many of its own organic ingredients and serve as a connection point for beer fans, tourists, and the brewery.
Like their smaller scale brewpub in the mountains, the new restaurant brings consumer and company together. “Because our roots are as a brewpub, we’ve always found value in creating that experience with people,” Usry explains, and they strive to maintain that even as they grow. The original pub features a unique mountain atmosphere, while the new space will be ranch inspired. The Farm House is open now and public tours of the new brewery will begin June 21.
While the brewery and Farm House restaurant are what’s new, the beer has always come first for Breckenridge. While tourism is a nice perk, the expansion is primarily to let Breckenridge maximize its brewing capacity.
“We’re excited to add some creativity back,” Usry explains. “We focused last year on satisfying the demand. Right now we can experiment and do more one-offs again.” Breckenridge is already reaping the benefits of new space, releasing its eighth year round beer, Breck IPA, earlier this year, with plans in the works to expand its barrel-aging program and collaborations with other breweries. It also expects more 22 oz. bottles to reach its extended markets now, including Minnesota.
Among the new beers being produced at the expanded facility is an anniversary ale, which will be released to coincide with Hootenanny 25, a 25th anniversary celebration and official grand opening of the new campus on July 18 with live music, a collaborative beer with the band Leftover Salmon (also turning 25), pig roasts, and more. Hootenanny itself is an annual party but, just like the move, things are looking bigger for Breck this year.