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ARCHIVED  June 1, 1997

Boom!

Brewpubs tap growing market, but food remains key

Brewpub expansions along the Northern Front Range are coming to a head.

But brewpub operators say it takes the right mix of ingredients to make the trendy taverns lucrative as more pubs enter the market here.

The pubs, which combine a restaurant and a bar that offers its own microbrewed beer, have proliferated in Colorado and are struggling to gain a foothold in Wyoming.

Generally, brewpubs draw in greater revenues from the restaurant side of the business.

And a good location, keeping costs in line, and providing quality service are all part of the mix for a successful pub, operators say.

Some brew pubs such as the Estes Park Brewery in Estes Park also distribute their microbrewed beer to restaurants and liquor stores. Last year, the Estes Park Brewery distributed 55,000 cases of beer to restaurants and liquor stores in Colorado, Texas, California and the Chicago area, said owner Ed Grueff.

The brewery earned $1.4 million in revenues last year, and Grueff expects it to do $2 million this year.

In the winter months, the business is generally split, with about 90 percent of its revenues derived from distributing and 10 percent from the pub. But in the summers when tourists flock to Estes Park, about 70 percent of revenues come from the brewpub operation and 30 percent from the distributing business, he said.

Like most other businesses, the quality of service can make or break a brewpub.

“I’m a service freak,” Grueff said.

The 3-year-old pub seats 125 people, and its menu includes burgers, bratwurst and salads. Generally, it has about eight brews on tap.

In Greeley, Fleetside Pub & Brewery did about $2 million in revenues in its first year of operations, said general manager Erin Devitt. The pub opened in August 1995.

To make a brewpub profitable, operators need to keep costs in line, particularly product and labor costs, she said.

“They make or break any restaurant,” Devitt said. “You need a quality product in the menu and beer and the service.”

Fleetside occupies 16,000 square feet in a former car-dealership building. The restaurant seats about 295 people.

The pub usually has nine to 13 brews on tap, and it also distributes beer to other local restaurants and sells kegs.

Devitt said customer demand varies by the time of day. At lunchtime, most customers come for the restaurant, while the pub picks up business later in the day. A late-night college crowd also patronizes the pub, she said.

The restaurant side of the business serves burgers, steaks, fish and chips, cottage pies and other fare. The brewery business is lucrative, because the pub profits by brewing large quantities of beer that it serves to customers, she said.

However, about 60 percent of revenues come from the restaurant business and 30 percent from beer. Another 10 percent is earned from gift items and other miscellaneous retail products, she said.

“Setting up a pub requires more capital up-front than a restaurant because of the brewing equipment,” Devitt said.

Fleetside’s brewing equipment cost about $200,000, she said. That included the brew kettles, aging tank and fermenting tank.

The pub is owned by some Greeley investors, as well as partners from CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewery in Fort Collins.

CooperSmith’s opened in late 1989 in Old Town and is housed in two buildings with an archway in between, said general manager Bob Wallace.

CooperSmith’s bucks trend

At CooperSmith’s, the beer side of the business is more profitable than the restaurant, he said.

Wallace said brewpubs depend on a variety of factors to succeed.

“It takes the right business plan and the right location and quality and quantity of service you provide,” he said.

The pub’s location in Old Town is ideal, he said.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That’s for sure,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he believes the popularity of brewpubs has peaked. CooperSmith’s was one of the first brewpubs to open in Colorado, and now there are at least five brew pubs in Fort Collins alone, he said.

CooperSmith’s has 80 different recipes for microbrews and usually has eight to 14 brews on tap. In the summer, it serves a wheat beer, and one of its most popular brews is a green chile beer, he said.

The restaurant seats 175 people indoors, and the patio can accommodate another 275 seats. The menu focuses on hearty American pub fare such as burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, and vegetarian items.

Linden’s converts to brewpub

Another Fort Collins club, Linden’s Night Club and Bourbon Street Restaurant recently reopened as Linden’s, a brewpub featuring a Cajun/Creole restaurant and a live jazz and blues club.

The longtime night club closed in December for an extensive renovation, said Terah Gondrezick, spokeswoman for Linden’s.

She said the new pub will still offer live jazz and blues, as well as a restaurant. It will serve six microbrews and two guest brews on tap.

Linden’s opened 15 years ago as a night club featuring New Orleans-style food such as fresh seafood and mesquite-grilled items, she said.

But owner Tommy Short recently merged his business with Bohemian Breweries, of Torrance, Calif., and decided to convert the club to a brewpub. With the renovation, Linden’s seats 225 people in the restaurant area, she said.

Wyoming lags in brewpub growth

While brewpubs are familiar taverns in Colorado, their popularity has just begun to grow in nearby Wyoming.

The Medicine Bow Brewing Co., the only brewpub in Cheyenne, opened just two years ago, said co-owner Larry Sortor.

The pub occupies 1,500 square feet. In the basement is a pool hall and dance floor, while the first floor accommodates the pub and a 110-seat restaurant. Another second-floor dining room seats 30

people.

Sortor said the restaurant’s menu ranges from pizza to steak, seafood and vegetarian dishes. The pub usually has six brews on tap, including an American honey ale.

He said the pub earned about $1.2 million last year, and revenues are higher from the restaurant side of the business.

“Any brewpub’s focus is on the restaurant,” he said. “Otherwise you could just go to a bar.”

No specific age group frequents the pub, but customers are rarely older than 55, Sortor said.

“We have different crowds at lunch than at dinner,” he said. “It runs the full gamut.”

Sortor is optimistic about the future of brewpubs in Wyoming. “It’s not as popular as it is in Colorado, but we’re trying to make it that way,” he said.

But some efforts come up short. Bowman Brewing Co. Inc. in Laramie recently shut down due to heavy debt.

Brewpubs tap growing market, but food remains key

Brewpub expansions along the Northern Front Range are coming to a head.

But brewpub operators say it takes the right mix of ingredients to make the trendy taverns lucrative as more pubs enter the market here.

The pubs, which combine a restaurant and a bar that offers its own microbrewed beer, have proliferated in Colorado and are struggling to gain a foothold in Wyoming.

Generally, brewpubs draw in greater revenues from the restaurant side of the business.

And a good location, keeping costs in line, and providing quality service are all part of the mix for a…

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