Regional news: Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co. sold to Breckenridge Brewery veteran
DILLON — Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co., situated in the heart of downtown Dillon, has been in the craft brew business since 1997, well before the industry started on a nationwide boom.
Like its eponymous outlaw, Pug’s has always been a little bit scrappy; in 2003, it became only the second craft brewery in the state to put its beer in cans, and it did so using a manual canner that took three people toiling away at levers to operate.
They’ve since upgraded to an automated system that increased their daily output from around 80 cases to 400.
“I’ve always called Pug’s the island of misfit toys, and I was always in charge of that island,” said Travis Holton, who has co-owned Pug’s along with his wife Annie since 1986, when it was only a steakhouse.
Now, the husband and wife team say they’ve found the right couple to take over that role in John and Judy Jordan, who finalized the deal to buy the brewpub on Monday for an undisclosed amount.
“We just flat out said we need to find the right people to take Pug’s down the road another quarter century, because it’s more important than we are,” Holton said. “There were some other suitors who would not have understood the culture and would not have been able to hit a home run. So we were fortunate to find the right kind of buyers.”
Rather than sell to a corporate behemoth or investors for whom Pug’s would merely be “another pony in the stable,” the Holtons said they were looking for owner-operators with hands-on brewing experience.
John Jordan certainly has that. He’s been brewing beer since 1994, when he started out as an assistant brewer at a pub in Kansas City. After just a few months, however, the head brewer abruptly left, and Jordan was left to teach himself the ins and outs of beer making.
Even back then, he said, he talked about getting his own operation going, but it wasn’t until recently that the right opportunity appeared.
“I’ve had people over the years who have told me they had financing and we should do something, but most of them were just talking and the ones that weren’t just talking weren’t the right fit,” he said.
Jordan has spent the last 17 years of his career at Breckenridge Brewery, where he took over the quality control lab around six years ago.
“I used to come up and test the beers at the pub in Breckenridge, so I got the chance to become very close with the brewers up here,” he said. “And of course, Keystone is my favorite place to ride.”
Judy Jordan found the listing about six months ago. Its identity as Pug Ryan’s, however, was hidden from would-be buyers until they met a number of criteria set by the Holtons.
After the reveal, Judy said, it was clear the Jordans and the Holtons shared similar visions of the storied brewpub’s future.
“This just seemed like a great opportunity for John and I to work together and move to Summit County,” she said. “Meeting with Travis and Annie felt very natural, and they’ve been running a great business for 30 years.”
The Jordans say they plan to build on those three decades of success but aren’t planning any major changes.
“It’s funny because we looked at some other opportunities and it was like, ‘Oh, we can go in and make all these changes,’” John Jordan said. “With this, there are no changes that need to be made. The culture is here, the people are doing everything they need to do and the beer is awesome.”
As for new brews further down the line, Jordan said he’s had ideas kicking around in his head for more than 20 years in the beer business and he’s looking forward to trying them out.
Really, he said, it’s more a question of what he won’t try. That list is short: Sours.
“Not gonna happen,” he says, to laughter, referring to a type of beer brewed with bacteria that gives it a sharp twang. Brewers have fought off that contaminant for decades, but the unique taste it produces has helped it carve out a small niche in recent years.
“I actually didn’t interview him about the sours,” Holton said. “But I concur.”