SweetWater Brewing Co., the Atlanta-based creator of the renown 420 Extra Pale Ale, is expanding to Colorado in a big way with plans to take over a massive brewery on the Front Range and open a taproom inside Denver International Airport.
This week, SweetWater announced plans to move into a 32,450-square-foot production facility in Fort Collins that was formerly home to Red Truck Brewing Co. The space includes a 10,000-square-foot taproom that’s currently undergoing a remodel in anticipation of a late fall opening. The company is also adding an outdoor beer garden that faces west, so drinkers can take in views of the mountains while enjoying a cold beer from one of 18 draft taps, said Laird Mulderink, the Fort Collins brewery’s vice president of operations.
SweetWater’s bar inside Denver International Airport, located in concourse B, is expected to open this week. News of the brewery’s expanded footprint in the Centennial State follows its January announcement to distribute beer statewide after being available exclusively in the Telluride area for several years.
Freddy Bensch, co-founder and CEO, got his start in beer washing kegs at Boulder Brewing Co. in 1992. When he opened SweetWater 25 years ago in Georgia, he infused the Colorado ethos into the brand. Laying roots here is a natural fit, he said.
“The whole concept was to create something that had no borders — live music, trout fishing, outdoors, environment, and ultimately cannabis,” Bensch said. “There’s no state or part of the country that’s really more in tune with what SweetWater stands for than Colorado.”
Having a brewery here also means potential to expand into new territory, product-wise. In December, Canadian cannabis company Aphria, now known as Tilray, acquired SweetWater for $300 million in cash and stock. Given the brewery’s cannabis-friendly attitude, products such as its series of brews inspired by marijuana strains, and the fact that marijuana products must be manufactured in the state in which they’re sold, weed-infused releases are future possibilities.
“I think we’d be remiss if we wouldn’t continue to explore those opportunities,” Bensch said. “We like to say never say never.”
Bensch anticipates the Colorado foothold will be a launch pad for SweetWater to further distribute to the West Coast. Mulderink said his team, which includes several people from the now closed Red Truck brewery, is currently developing specialty recipes for Colorado drinkers that will be available when it opens in a few months.
Until then, drinkers can find SweetWater’s mainstay recipes at stores and bars throughout the state.
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