By the end of 2016, Monument’s Pikes Peak Brewing Company expects to be the top-producing craft brewery in the county — and one of the top 20 in the state.
Not bad for owner Chris Wright, who was only home brewing beer five years ago.
This month, Wright announced plans for Project BASECAMP, which will expand the brewery’s production and distribution capabilities by October. He is currently courting investors to raise $700,000 for the project. Within a week, he said there was enough interest to hit the halfway mark.
The expansion is needed not just to grow his business, but to simply keep up with the brewery’s current demand, he said.
“I signed with a wholesale distributor in July and, since we signed with him, we’ve doubled the output going out door,” Wright said. “Our revenue is about the same because we have to provide them with a discount so they can sell it at the same price we would to a distributor, but the volume has doubled.”
Wright intends to build a state-of-the-art wholesale production facility to Pikes Peak’s current brewhouse.
In 2015, the company grew its barrel production by more than 40 percent, and growth has been between 30 and 40 percent annually since the company began.
“We’ll do about 2,700 barrels this year brewing eight batches a week out of our current system,” he said. Once the project is finished, it will include a 30-barrel, four-vessel brewhouse, four 90-barrel fermenters, two 90-barrel brite tanks (which carbonate the beer) and other improvements and upgrades to its canning line and facilities. The existing 10-barrel brewhouse will be used to produce more seasonal, collaboration and barrel-aged beers. The number of employees will double to match the increased capacity.
Pikes Peak will be expanding its current location by about 5,900 square feet, but Wright expects to pay little out of pocket, as the landlord is covering the renovation costs for the expansion, and investors (primarily customers) should cover the rest, he said. He has interest from about a half-dozen qualified parties, who will receive preferred economic shares, and plans to cap investors at 35.
“We could have done traditional bank financing, which would have been less expensive, but I figure we should keep that money here,” Wright said. “And then I have 35 new brand ambassadors who will bring their friends to their brewery. They can point and say they helped build this expansion. It’s a market multiplier for sure.”
After Project BASECAMP is completed, Pikes Peak Brewing will have capacity to produce more than 13,000 barrels a year — more than 333 percent growth in capacity. Wright said that means he’ll not only be able to keep up with distribution in Colorado, but he can also begin to explore exporting Pikes Peak beer beyond state lines.
“We’ll start with one or two [states] and see how it goes,” Wright said, although he would not disclose potential markets. In addition to the brewhouse, the expansion will include a new cold room for product storage, more space for raw-ingredient storage, administrative offices, a meeting room, a catwalk over production space for tours and a dedicated, on-site quality lab.
“At 13,000 barrels a year, once you get to that level, you need to invest in a lab,” he said. “If you have to dump a 90-barrel batch, it hurts. Ten barrels is painful, but not the end of the world. Also, as we grow, our product will travel farther and we want to be sure quality is preserved. If it’s in Fort Collins sitting on a shelf for a week or two, we want it to taste like it would [in Monument] the day after a delivery.”
The Monument brewery is riding a popular wave for craft beers across the state. The Colorado Brewers Guild, an industry group, reports there has been a 178 percent growth in the number of breweries in the state since the recession ended in 2009 — there is an estimated total of 309 licensed breweries in Colorado. And a study conducted by the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business found the economic impact of Colorado’s craft beer industry was about $1.15 billion in 2014, up from $800 million the year before.
Terri Hayes, executive director of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, said the Tri-Lakes region is enthusiastic about the expansion.
“We are very happy that Chris decided to keep all production here in the Tri-Lakes area,” she said. “From the start, the community has embraced him, his staff and, of course, his product. We have supported him from the start and now we get to witness the next great phase.”