Changes brewing: Kannah Creek returns to its roots

Bernadette and Jim Jeffryes, co-owners of Kannah Creek Brewing and the Edgewater Brewery, also work there as business manager and head brewer, respectively. The Grand Junction company plans to scale back on its distribution of craft beers to focus on the local market and a local operation that includes three restaurants. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Bernadette and Jim Jeffryes, co-owners of Kannah Creek Brewing and the Edgewater Brewery, also work there as business manager and head brewer, respectively. The Grand Junction company plans to scale back on its distribution of craft beers to focus on the local market and a local operation that includes three restaurants. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

It’s not so much the owners of Kannah Creek Brewing are headed back to the drawing board. Rather, they’re returning to their roots.

Bernadette Jeffryes, a co-owner who works as business manager of the Grand Junction company, describes the changes yet another way. “We decided let’s kind of get local again.”

Rather than struggle to carve out a share of what’s become an increasingly crowded and competitive market for craft beers, Kannah Creek will scale back distribution to focus on brewing beers for the local market and supplying its three restaurants in the Grand Valley, Jeffryes says. “We enjoy the pub side of it. It’s what we’re good at.”

Replacing a 30-barrel brewing system at its Edgewater Brewery with a 10-barrel system will not only result in a more efficient and flexible operation, but also free up space for a larger kitchen, more restaurant seating and perhaps even a venue for special events and concerts, Jeffryes says.

Kannah Creek also will switch from glass bottles to aluminum cans, packaging Jeffryes says is lighter and less expensive to ship as well as more portable for customers.

What won’t change, Jeffryes says, is a partnership in which Kannah Creek brews beers for a public benefit corporation that uses profits to fund efforts to improve rivers.

Kannah Creek has grown and evolved considerably since the operation opened in 2005 with a brewpub and restaurant in a building on 12th Street in Grand Junction that formerly housed a buffet restaurant. In 2013, Kannah Creek opened the Edgewater Brewery on Struthers Avenue south of downtown to brew beer on a larger scale. The facility also houses a restaurant. In 2016, Kannah Creek opened a third restaurant in Fruita.

Kannah Creek also has distributed beer to liquor stores and other outlets not only in the Grand Valley and the Western Slope, but also across Colorado and into six other states.

That effort has required a lot of resources and isn’t sustainable given the competition in the marketplace, Jeffryes says. “You have to be a big player to do it.”

That led to the decision to scale back on distribution and concentrate instead on the local market, she says.

Kannah Creek sold its 30-barrel brewing system to Steady Hand Brewing. The equipment will be trucked to that company’s new brewery in Georgia.

Kannah Creek has purchased a 10-barrel decoction system from a brewery in Japan, and Jeffryes says she hopes the system soon will be shipped and installed at the Edgewater Brewery.

Using a smaller system at capacity will offer a more efficient and flexible operation, she says. There’s the option to increase production using additional storage tanks.

Using a smaller system also will free up space for a larger kitchen and more restaurant seating, addressing two other issues at the facility. While the restaurant at Edgewater can seat 50 people indoors, Jeffryes expects that capacity to more than double to 120. She also expects a larger facility will help to make the restaurant a more popular location and reduce what’s been a seasonal dip in business during summers.

There could be more room as well for an indoor venue for  parties and other special events as well as live musical performances.

The changes at Kannah Creek come at a time of increased interest in the riverfront area where Edgewater is located. An amphitheater was constructed at the nearby Las Colonias Park. A business park also has been proposed.

The Jeffryes purchased the property where they constructed the Edgewater Brewery before they opened the first Kannah Creek location on 12th Street — a move that finally could prove fortuitous as additional development occurs along the riverfront, Bernadette Jeffryes says. “Everything is turning out really good.”

In the meantime, Kannah Creek will continue to brew beer on a contract basis for Many Rivers Brewing. A public benefit corporation in Colorado, Many Rivers uses profits from beer sales to fund river conservation efforts in the West.

Kannah Creek and Many Rivers beers will be packaged in 12-ounce aluminum cans rather than glass bottles, however, Jeffryes says.

Jeffreys hopes to soon sell the bottling line at Kannah Creek and replace it with aluminum can production.

Packaging beer in aluminum cans is not only less expensive, Jeffryes says, but also lighter to ship and more compact to store. Moreover, aluminum cans offer more portable packaging to customers, including those who want to bring beer along for outdoor activities.

Jeffreys says the evolving and growing operation at Kannah Creek has kept her and her husband busy, but also feeling young. They have no immediate plans to retire.

She also acknowledges, though, the decision to scale back on distributing beer and focus on the local market and local operations has relieved some of the stress associated with the operation. “This is already feeling good. We’re happy about it.”