By Eric Peterson / CompanyWeek | Nov 27, 2015
Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
After working as an engineer for Xerox in California, Jeffryes left the job to de-stress himself and followed family to the Western Slope in the late 1990s.
A homebrewer since the beginning of that decade, he decided to go pro and completed a program from the American Brewers Guild. After commuting from Grand Junction to C.B. & Potts in metro Denver for a year, he landed at Palisade Brewing in 2000. He worked there for two separate stints before going his own way to launch Kannah Creek. "I needed a job," he says of the brewery's startup.
After proving the concept and winning medals for five years, he started to plan an expansion. The resulting $4.2 million facility, "The Edge," has a 30-barrel brewhouse with an annual capacity of 6,000 barrels, with room to double production.
"We started brewing big batches here in October 2013," says Jeffryes. "We wanted to buy the best equipment we could for the money." That includes a "bulletproof" bottling line with in-line carbonation made by Moravek in the Czech Republic that packages two cases a minute with 12 heads. "What we get is a consistent bubble," Jeffryes touts. "It's not stratified."
Of the four year-round beers, Lands End Amber Ale and Broken Oar IPA are the top sellers. Kannah Creek also has several seasonal releases and a growing barrel-aging program, including Cherry Barrel Brown Ale with local tart cherries aged in a Peach Street barrel.
Moving forward, Jeffryes hopes to use more local ingredients. "We live in a great area for fruit," he says. "It just makes sense if we can cross-market and build off of our local farmers."
Production hit 2,000 barrels in 2013, then it increased to about 3,500 for the two years since.
"I think we might have gotten into the game a little late," says Jeffryes. "The competition got to be really fierce. Our growth curve is kind of flat."
There's a silver lining to the slow growth. "It's hard to scale up," says Jeffryes. "If your production is maxed out, your compromise is taking less time to do it. There's likely to be a flavor change."
Not that Kannah Creek isn't preparing to ramp up quickly. "In May, we hired a consulting company [Pennsylvania-based Beverage 364] to do our sales and distribution contracts. They hit the ground running."
Jeffryes is eying Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas after false starts in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nebraska in 2014. The latter three turned out badly, he adds, because they're dominated by grocery chains that sell full-strength beer. "They really grind you down on price."
With the help of Beverage 364, he hopes to avoid such pitfalls in future markets. "We were brewers," he explains. "We weren't market-savvy."
Favorite beers: "I like our Standing Wave Pale Ale quite a bit," says Jeffryes. "I like 'em all though."
Beyond Kannah Creek's beers, he points to Great Divide, Left Hand, and Avery as his favorite breweries.
Challenges: "My main challenge is access to market and balancing the cost of sales with the cost of production," says Jeffryes. "You really have to have your own staff out there beating the weeds and that gets expensive. We have to do more with less."
Opportunities: "Our opportunity is just to continue to be out in the market and continue to make good beer," says Jeffryes. "There's more room to grow with the barrel-aged stuff. By having them out there, we can redirect people to our year-round beers. They're fun to make."
Geographically speaking, he sees room to grow in Colorado Springs and mountain towns, and there's a big asterisk to the southeast. "Texas is a big state, but it's a tough nut to crack," says Jeffryes. In the other direction, he's also looking at Utah, but says, "We don't know if it makes sense."
Canning represent another opportunity for Kannah Creek. "We went with bottles because we think the beer tastes better," Jeffryes says.
Needs: "We need some analytical equipment," says Jeffryes, reciting a wish list that includes a mass spectrometer and better waste treatment. The former is "uber-expensive," he adds, but the latter "would pay for itself."
Another key need: "At some point, you have to start turning a profit and we're not quite there yet."