By Eric Peterson | Aug 28, 2015
Edwards / Denver, Colorado
Edwards and Denver, Colorado
Selvy co-founded Crazy Mountain Brewing with his wife and VP of marketing, Marisa, after five years at Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. He pounded the doors at the legendary California brewery for a year or more before getting in.
But after friends of friends tasted his homebrew, he says, "I interviewed with Fritz Maytag and went from there."
But Selvy wanted to launch his own operation, and looked east to the Rockies. "I'm from Colorado so I wanted to go home," says Selvy, who grew up in Parker and attended Colorado State University. "The Vail Valley was like a second home for me."
The couple crafted a business plan and found that it also was the location in Colorado furthest from any other production breweries -- there was a 200-mile hole in the middle of the state around Vail and Edwards. "We found it fairly strategic," says Selvy.
And just a year after opening, Breckenridge Brewery's Todd Usry approached the little mountain brewery as a possibility to take over their facility in Denver, one of the 50 largest breweries in the U.S. Crazy Mountain was at that time producing just over 1,000 barrels a year. "We were literally two days away from breaking ground on our first expansion," he says. "At the time, I said, 'No way.’"
But after the dust settled on the expansion, Selvy had a different mindset. "We went back to Todd in 2012 at CBC in San Diego and said, 'Is that offer still on the table?’"
It was, so the company crafted a business plan that would transform Crazy Mountain from a small operation is ski country into one of the bigger breweries in the state. "We had to get a distribution footprint nationwide," says Selvy. "Needless to say, it's a huge jump."
To finance the deal, Selvy says he broke the business "into several different sub-companies. We set up a real estate holding company. On the brewery side, we put together and equity raise and bootstrapped it."
It all means the plan is to grow, and grow quickly. Crazy Mountain's production hit about 15,000 barrels in Edwards in 2014, says Selvy. Now the brewery has about 90,000 barrels of annual capacity between Denver and Edwards. "We hope to grow into that in three to four years. We're looking at 800 percent growth."
Crazy Mountain is now in 20 states, and does a fair amount of international business. After Colorado, Scandinavia is the second largest market, accounting for about 15 percent of sales. "We're getting calls all day, every day from every state in the country," says Selvy. "We're focused on our current markets."
Crazy Mountain moved in on August 1. "Everything was left in perfect order," he says. "We have no equipment to install or construction, which is what stands in the way of growth. We're in uncharted waters. We literally don't need a single hose."
Another benefit: "It grows our capacity in Edwards because all of our storage and logistics are down here."
Canning remains in Edwards, and the bottling line in Denver allows them to diversify into glass. "Bottles at the end of the day make up 80 percent of packaged beer sales in the U.S.," says Selvy, citing an internal study from a wholesaler. "We think it's a sound strategy to play in both worlds."
Same goes for styles. "We try to present a pretty well diversified portfolio," he says of the catalog of eight year-round beers. Mountain Livin' Pale Ale is the top seller, but "we try not to let any one of our SKUs grow to over 25 percent of sales," says Selvy. "If they do, we start shutting production on that beer down and brew other styles. We don't want any one beer to be our flagship."
The strategy plays into expansion plans, he adds. "Certain styles do better in the Northwest than they do in the Southeast. And more and more, the craft beer industry is evolving into a similar space as the wine industry a decade ago, where people look for a balanced portfolio from a supplier."
Beyond Mountain Livin', the year-round catalog includes Hookiebobb IPA -- named for the maneuver where one latches onto a car bumper on skis for a ride in the parking lot -- a barleywine, and an amber, wheat, and an American ESB. "Every beer we do I look for balance," says Selvy.
The Edwards facility is transitioning into a more experimental and small-batch brewery. "We're doing two-plus experimental batches a week," he says. "We're doing some really fun stuff." One example: brewing with pine needles from different species, collected at different elevations and during different seasons. "We're learning," says Selvy, noting a "dramatic” flavor difference between spring and fall. "We're a year into it."
In Denver, the plan calls for a restaurant and beer garden to open in the fall. "We're starting out build-out now," says Selvy, describing a spot with guest taps and 2,000-person capacity outside.
Favorite beers: "Trying to pick a favorite of our beers is like trying to pick a favorite child," says Selvy. "It depends on the day." On this day, he picks Old Soul Strong Belgian Ale. Beyond Crazy Mountain, he tabs Lagunitas as one of his favorite craft breweries.
Challenges: "The biggest challenge is matching our water," says Selvy of the expansion. "It's technically impossible to make beer with the water up there." He says the Edwards filtration process needed a tweak in Denver. "We have to work harder than we should."
"Everything else works in our favor," he adds. "Brewing at elevation makes everything more difficult."
Another challenge: "How do we evolve our brewery to be both a mountain brewery and a Denver brewery?"
Opportunities: Exports. "Europe's a big market for us," says Selvy. After Scandinavia, the U.K., and Spain are top destinations. Asia is up next: Crazy Mountain is going into Thailand as well as Indonesia, an industry first. He jokes that the liquor laws in Indonesia (pop.: 250 million) are "very similar to Texas."
Needs: Employees in Denver. "Over the next six to eight weeks, we're bringing on another 10 employees in Denver," says Selvy. When the tasting room and restaurant open, he anticipates another 15 hires.
Execution is another need, he adds. "I'm glad we've got a good crew that works hard."