Westbound & Down Brewing Acquires Aspen Brewing & Capitol Creek Brewing
It’s continued to be a wild week in the Colorado craft beer scene with yesterday’s sale of Ursula Brewing followed by Living the Dream Brewing’s announcement of a new taproom in Sterling Ranch. Today Westbound & Down Brewing has announced they are acquiring Aspen Brewing and Basalt, CO’s Capitol Creek Brewing from High Country Brewing LLC.
The addition of the two Roaring Fork Valley breweries and Aspen’s production facility bolsters W&D’s portfolio of three existing locations to become a Colorado microbrewery powerhouse.
“Aspen Brewing’s location and long-standing, dedicated fan base and Capitol Creek’s fresh look and dedication to high-quality food and beer were both attractive out of the gate,” Jake Gardner, Director of Brewery Operations and Operating Partner for Westbound & Down Brewing.
W&D is looking to become even more of a player in the Colorado destination brewery space with the addition of Aspen Brewing and Capitol Creek Brewing. “This opportunity was brought to us and continues to align with our dream of operating Colorado brewpubs that serve as gateways to the outdoors and the mountains” explains Gardner.
Joining its original Idaho Springs brewpub location, W&D will now have 3 breweries in the mountains in addition to its Lafayette brewpub/pizzeria and downtown Denver satellite taproom.
Aspen Brewing was previously acquired by Legacy Breweries, a craft brewery investment group helmed by industry veteran Don Bryant, in 2019. The move marked a trio of investments by the former CEO of Yakima Chief Hops, which also included acquiring a majority stake of Ninkasi Brewing and full acquisition of Laurelwood Brewing that same year. However, both Ninkasi and Laurelwood would separate from the brewery group by May 2021. Just a few days later, Legacy, which had then rebranded to become High Country Brewing LLC would go on to acquire Capitol Creek Brewing.
As craft beer is now officially a mature market, breweries are increasingly looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded landscape, and opening destination brewpubs has proven to become a fruitful strategy. The integration of the new breweries with W&D will be slow and calculated beginning with curated guest taps from W&D will appear at Aspen Brewing’s downtown Aspen Tap location in the near future. Meanwhile, the Aspen Brewing production facility is currently being evaluated with plans to tweak and improve on current Aspen Brewing recipes and a long-term goal of eventually helping to increase production of W&D beers down the line.
“We have had a goal for some time to open more brewpub locations and have always kept an ear to the ground for locations that might make sense,” said Gardner. “Although we were originally looking into opening completely new projects in unoccupied spaces, this serendipitous opportunity was brought to us and continues to align with our dream of operating Colorado brewpubs that serve as gateways to the outdoors and the mountains.”
On the kitchen side of things, a handful of W&D’s signature food items will be added to the Aspen Tap menu. Chef Casey Taylor will add to his culinary program oversight responsibilities as he will also oversee the menus at Aspen Tap and Capitol Creek. To ensure a consistent hospitality and service experience at all these locations, W&D has hired Matt Husted, former Director of Hospitality and Partner at Id Est. W&D is banking on memorable experiences at destination locations to define its brand and set itself apart in a competitive market.
“There is no doubt this power duo of Aspen Brewing & Capitol Creek has established a strong beer culture both in attracting tourists and in serving as a gathering place for locals,” said Gardner. “Brewing is a resource-heavy industry where the ability to scale contracts, equipment, and personnel is critically important. Westbound hopes to contribute and truly become part of the Roaring Fork Valley community by sharing our dedication to quality above all else, while also doubling down on our focus on outdoor enthusiasm and protecting Colorado’s amazing backyard.”
W&D is riding an impressive streak of recent wins including the distinction of Colorado’s most decorated brewery at the 2023 Great American Beer Festival, bringing home gold, silver and bronze medals. They also captured a silver medal at the 2023 World Beer Cup, two silver medals at 2022 GABF, two silver medals at 2019 GABF and Midsize Brewpub of the Year at 2019 GABF. With this acquisition, W&D increases its physical footprint across Colorado as well as its mindshare amongst Colorado beer drinkers. W&D is on a roll and shows no signs of slowing down.