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The news broke in July 2017: Brooklyn Brewery had purchased a minority stake in northern California’s 21st Amendment Brewery and Funkwerks, the saison/sour-centric brewery out of Fort Collins. The three brewers became partners in sales and distribution and, starting this month, Coloradans will at long last see—and taste—the fruits of that deal when Brooklyn Brewery lands on local liquor store shelves and begins flowing from area bar taps.
Ranked by the Brewers Association as America’s 11th-largest craft brewery, this latest move gives Brooklyn Brewery entry to Colorado’s massive beer market, where it will begin distributing its Brooklyn Lager, Bel Air Sour, and Defender IPA, as well as seasonal releases, variety 12-packs, and draft-only brews. By combining forces with 21st Amendment and Funkwerks, all three breweries gain greater influence over distributors across more ground, giving each brand a better chance at making successful expansions into markets away from home. And given that the domestic beer market has never been more crowded, this kind of partnership could potentially offer a blueprint for other craft breweries looking to expand their reach.
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“It’s a competitive market out there, and it requires more sales people to do the same work from a few years ago,” Brewers Association chief economist Dr. Bart Watson wrote 5280 in an email. “Distribution or sales team partnerships are one way brewers may accomplish this. It’s more common to see breweries get acquired, [though, and] we’ve seen other variations of [these partnerships] sometimes as a prelude to acquisition.”
Expanding outside of your home region, even for craft brewers who do so through acquisitions, can be a risky business. Perhaps the most notable recent failure was with San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing, which crumbled after it couldn’t pay off the immense amount of debt it incurred while trying to establish a national presence.
For his part, Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy says he has no plans to acquire either Funkwerks or 21st Amendment. The deal already seems to be working out: Funkwerks has already expanded into northern California and Nevada, and Hindy plans to take Brooklyn Brewery farther west while using its connections on the East Coast to open more doors for Funkwerks and 21st Amendment.
Of course, Brooklyn Brewery’s reputation for quality beer is the lynchpin behind the entire operation—Brooklyn’s head of brewing, Garrett Oliver, is a James Beard Award-winning brewer—and that’s quality that Coloradans finally get to enjoy at home.
Brooklyn Brewery beer is available in the following Denver liquor stores: Argonaut Liquor and Mile High Wine and Spirits. Brooklyn’s beer is also be available on tap and in bottles at Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen and Falling Rock Tap House.