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Adam Avery turns 52 this year, and his brewery, Avery Brewing Company, turns 25 next month—which means that the charismatic owner has led the iconic Boulder brewery for nearly half of his life.
Avery’s beer story began like so many others: In the midst of a quarter-life career crisis, the self-proclaimed “home brewer gone amuck” found new direction in his passion for beer, forgoing plans to attend law school and opting to draft up a business plan for a brewery instead. The plan made its way to Avery’s father, Larry, a then-recent retiree in search of investment opportunities, and a brewery was born. The duo opened Avery Brewing Company in the back alley of a small East Boulder business park in September 1993.
In the early days, Avery, a relatively inexperienced brewer, played it safe, releasing traditional beer styles into the local market such as the rich, roasty Ellie’s Brown Ale and a straightforward IPA. But in 2003, Andy Parker (Avery’s current “Chief Barrel Herder”) joined the team, bringing an excitement for high-gravity brewing (beer purposefully brewed to have a higher ABV percentage) and barrel aging. Together, Parker and Avery began experimenting. The result was recipes like Hog Heaven, a popular Imperial Red IPA with a 9.2-percent ABV, and eventually, a series of “gold foil” specialty beers that helped give Avery a niche in the quickly growing craft beer market. Soon, the quiet Boulder alley was transformed into a major destination for beer aficionados.
By the early 2010s, Avery Brewing had expanded to the point of hitting a wall—quite literally. Having reached the spatial limits within the alley, Avery began drafting plans for his “dream brewery,” a world-class brew house with a focus on efficiency and experimentation. Just over a year after breaking ground, on a snowy February day in 2015, Avery opened the doors to that dream, which ended up being a brewery, taproom, and restaurant. Inside the 67,000-square-foot facility sat a new custom-built German-engineered 85-barrel brew house capable of producing up to 150,000 barrels per year, a huge step up from the 50,000-some barrels the brewery produced in 2014.
With this high-tech brewing equipment, Avery was making some of the best beers of his career. His production levels increased from 52,805 barrels in 2015 to 62,097 barrels in 2016. From the outside, it looked as though business couldn’t get any better. Internally, Avery Brewing was battling demons.
The shiny new build had cost $27 million dollars. And although Avery had led the company for more than twenty years by that point, he found himself struggling to effectively move the business forward. He began to entertain partnership offers from outside investors. Previously, Avery had kept the door shut when “Big Beer” (the Anheuser-Busch InBevs and SABMillers of the world) came knocking. But when family-run Spanish brewing company Mahou-San Miguel came courting, Avery felt confident he had found a partner that could infuse financial support into his company and also help Avery become a better business owner.
In late 2017, the 70-30 partnership was announced; the craft beer community went into a full tailspin. Already scarred from the loss of breweries like Breckenridge Brewery and Wicked Weed to Big Beer, craft consumers were upset. Having sold 30 percent of his business, Avery was no longer considered an independent craft brewer in the eyes of the Brewers Association, a top resource for American breweries. (According to the Boulder-based organization, an American craft brewery must be independent and operate with at least 75 percent majority ownership in the business.)
Avery hasn’t paid much mind to all of the noise surrounding the deal. “It was the right thing to do at the right time,” he says. “We have Big Beer influence and knowledge without the baggage. I know who we are.” And as the dust continues to settle, Avery is already seeing the benefits of teaming up with Mahou-San Miguel, including receiving support and guidance on business decisions and assistance implementing necessary brewing practices to keep Avery’s beer at its best. “The more I’m in business, the less I know,” Avery says. “It’s a learning experience every single day.”
To celebrate the past 25 years, Avery is throwing an anniversary party on August 4. “This year’s party is a tribute to the beers that got us to 25 years, and to the beers that will write our future,” says Avery. The event will feature samples of more than 90 Avery brews, including vertical tastings of the Demons of Ale Series, 25 Barrel-Aged Series beers, and a first taste of a new offering, Raspberry Truffale, which will make its debut at the party. Tickets include unlimited two-ounce pours, live music from the Hop Pickers, Casino Effect, and Legitimate Front, and plenty of fun for the kids.
If you go: The Avery anniversary party takes place on August 4 from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased here.
Avery Brewing Company, 4910 Nautilus Ct. N, Boulder, 303-440-4234