DU Alums Capitalizing Off Beer
Several alum-owned breweries participate in the 2017 Great American Beer Festival
“Being able to interact with this many people in one festival is something you can’t find anywhere else.”
This is why the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is an important event for Wyatt Patterson (MBA ’13) and more than 800 of his fellow craft brewers. Last week, more than 60,000 people passed through the Colorado Convention Center during the three-day event to taste the 3,800 beers that were on tap.
“It’s a huge networking event for us in the industry,” Patterson says. “The beautiful thing about craft beer is that everyone is friends and the comradery that comes along with that is something you don’t get in any other industry.”
Patterson, along with his brother Tyler, created Storm Peak Brewing Co. in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 2014. An alum of the Daniels College of Business, Patterson says he created his business plan while attending DU. He says the importance of caring for his employees is a lesson he learned while earning his MBA.
“Employees are the most important asset, and that’s something that I learned at DU,” he says. “It’s something you don’t really learn in undergrad, but you certainly get in the real world. However, the thing that I got from DU was the psychology of how you manage a team and how you build a team that can drive your success.”
Storm Peak is one of several breweries owned by DU alums that participated in the 2017 festival. Former DU athletes Paige Schuster (BS ’08) and her husband, Marcus Christianson (BS ’08), started Two22 Brew in Centennial, Colo. Both became teachers after graduating, but decided that was not their long-term career plan. So, they used their background in science and business to start their brewery in 2014.
“Having the science background keeps me better informed on a lot of the brewing practices and it keeps my intrigue in science going,” Schuster says.
CO-Brew is a more recent brewery to be opened by a DU alum. Located in Denver, the business combines a homebrew supply store with a learn-to-brew experience, and it brews its own beer. CO-Brew is owned by Janna Williams (BS, MA ’97). She says her background in accounting has helped her tremendously with the new business.
“Having that really solid business understanding from accounting, to writing our business plan, doing our forecasting and even signing our lease, I think the fact that I’m a CPA and have that experience really helped us a lot,” Williams says. “Having that background from DU is really good for anyone trying to start a business.”
While many University of Denver alums are new to the industry, there is one alum who operates one of Denver’s oldest craft breweries. Brian Dunn (MEPM ’92) opened Great Divide Brewing Co. in 1994. Attending GABF is nothing new for Dunn, who over the years has taken home 18 awards for his beer. He says attending DU came at an important period in his career.
“My time at DU really helped me with just getting things figured out,” Dunn says. “In grad school, there are a lot of group projects and you have to get to the end no matter what the obstacle is and no matter who you are working with. I think that’s a lesson I learned pretty well at DU — work with people and get to the end of the project.”