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Durango Brewing sells stake

Currently at full capacity, new capital opens expansion avenues
Durango Brewing Co. has sold a majority interest to a private Denver investor with hopes of expanding production and markets. The current facility is producing at maximum capacity.

DENVER – Durango Brewing Co. has sold a majority interest in the brewery to a Denver-based private investor with the hopes of expanding.

Andrea Allison, spokeswoman for Durango Brewing, said the sale took place in January, though expansion plans still have not yet been finalized. She did not disclose the name of the private investor, or how much the sale was for.

“Durango Brewing Co. has been a staple in the Durango community as well as the Colorado craft beer community for 25 years, and we are excited about what our growth means for the local community as far as an increase in jobs, driving in more tourism and being able to interact and give back to our community more,” Allison said.

Day-to-day business operations have continued much the same at the brewery, with all of the beer still made at the 3000 Main Avenue location in Durango. There are no plans to change the company’s name, Allison said.

New ownership has not yet established a timeline for expansion plans, and Allison did not elaborate on what those specific plans might look like. She said the decision to sell the brewery’s majority interest revolved around a desire to increase operations.

“The current facility is brewing at max capacity, and we need more space to brew more beer,” Allison said. “With the expansion down the road, it will allow Durango Brewing Co. to strengthen Colorado distribution as well as look at expanding into other markets.”

Over the next year, changes might include a new logo, labels and an updated taproom and brewery, along with new equipment.

John Carlson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, said expansions like Durango Brewing’s are not uncommon in the Colorado craft beer industry, where the state’s estimated 300 licensed breweries have seen double-digit growth.

Some breweries, however, have been implementing plans to resist selling ownership to outside interests. Longmont-based Left Hand Brewing Co. recently announced it repurchased shares from current stockholders to establish a model using employee stock that gives workers a majority share. Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing Co. implemented a similar plan.

“There is capital that’s looking for opportunities to acquire some of these firms, and depending on the culture of the company, they have different outlooks on that,” Carlson said. “We’re certainly on a growth platform for an operator who is in an attractive local market.”

Allison said Durango Brewing might explore similar employee stock options in the years ahead, depending on how the expansion goes. She pointed out that the brewery currently has fewer than 20 staff members.

Some in the industry worry about efforts that could erode the unprecedented growth seen by craft brewers in Colorado. A group of large retailers, including grocery stores, are contemplating a ballot initiative for 2016 that would allow alcohol to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. They argue that the issue is about consumer convenience. But craft brewers are worried that the move would put smaller liquor stores out of business, thereby limiting shelf space.

“It is certainly going to make things more complicated for the smaller and mid-tier operators,” Carlson said. “It’s a finite amount of space you’re dealing with.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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