Russian River Plans to Sell Original Production Brewery

In anticipation of moving into a new production facility in late 2018, Russian River Brewing Company has put its original Sonoma County production brewery on the market.

“We are looking for a quality-focused brewer interested in expanding their operations in a turnkey brewing facility known for making pretty good beer,” Russian River co-owner and president Natalie Cilurzo wrote in an email to Brewbound.

Speaking to Brewbound on Monday, Cilurzo said she and husband Vinnie Cilurzo planned to sell their original production brewery after committing to build a new $40 million brewery and restaurant eight miles north, in Windsor, Calif.

Russian River will maintain its downtown Santa Rosa brewpub, but keeping the original production facility, where the company has operated for nearly a decade, was “just too complicated,” Cilurzo said.

“There’s absolutely no way to run three,” she said.

A formal listing price was not disclosed. Potential buyers are being asked to meet directly with Russian River’s owners and sign non-disclosure agreements. Several local brewers and other local community members have already expressed interest, Cilurzo added, but a buyer has not been identified.

Cilurzo, who noted that more than 25 breweries were now operational in Sonoma County, described the opportunity as a chance for a company to join a growing craft beer scene increasing in popularity.

“It’s certainly an exciting time to be in craft beer in Sonoma County, especially with wineries around,” she said. “It’s a tourist destination.”

Cilurzo stressed that the current Russian River facility is a turnkey operation ready for production once a prospective buyer obtains the necessary brewing permits. The facility is capable of producing 20,000 of barrels annually, depending on style mix. Last year, Russian River’s production brewery churned out 13,588 barrels — a 7 percent increase over 2015 — while its Santa Rosa brewpub produced 4,230 barrels.

Included in the sale is a 50-barrel brewhouse that the Cilurzos installed two years ago along with four 100-barrel and two 200-barrel fermentation tanks, two 200-barrel Brite tanks, a yeast brink, a wastewater treatment system and other pieces of brewery equipment. The facility also features six offices, a lab, a tasting room and a 580-panel rooftop solar system.

In May, work began on Russian River’s “dream brewery,” which the company anticipates moving into next Fall.

“These things never go on schedule,” she said. “Vinnie and I are just being really conservative. We have a date scheduled, but we know it’s not reality.”

Once operational, Russian River will brew simultaneously at its new facility and at its original brewery in order to flavor match and seamlessly transition production, Cilurzo said.

Potential buyers would be able to move into the Santa Rosa facility in late 2018 or early 2019, Cilurzo said.

In May 2016, Russian River announced plans for a new, 85,000 sq. ft. production brewery on a 16-acre plot in Windsor. The new brewery will feature a 175-seat restaurant, tasting room, gift shop and elevated walkway for self-guided tours. The brewery will have a capacity of about 60,000 barrels, and Russian River plans to double its current capacity initially.

“We made conscious choice and philosophical decision to stop there,” she said of 60,000 barrels. “That’s our comfort zone.”

Cult favorite Pliny the Elder now accounts for about 60 percent of Russian River’s total production. However, Cilurzo said the company’s growing sour beer program — which accounted for 10 percent of production last year — was one factor in pursuing the project. The new facility will allow Russian River to separate sour beer and clean beer production.

“We’ve never had cross contamination issue,” she said. “But we’ll be able to separate the two processes at the new brewery and be safe for any future issue not to come up.”

Despite plans to double production, Russian River doesn’t intend to broaden distribution into new markets outside of California. The company does distribute a small amount of beer to Oregon, Colorado and Philadelphia, and shipments to those markets will also grow.

Russian River has shared several updates on its social media channels since breaking ground. Cilurzo said work has really “ramped up this past week.”

“We’re making a lot of progress on the property,” she said.

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