Uinta CEO Departs for Maine Beer Company

After nearly three years at the helm of Uinta Brewing Company, Steve Mills has departed the Utah-based craft brewery for a smaller operation on the East Coast.

Mills has been named the CEO of Maine Beer Company, which is best known for producing hop-forward ales packaged in 16.9 oz. glass bottles with white labels.

Speaking to Brewbound, David Kleban, who co-founded Maine Beer Company with his brother, Dan, said the decision to hire a CEO with industry experience was born out of a need to professionalize the business.

“We’ve grown from six people and 3,000 barrels to 35 people, and we’ll produce about 18,000 barrels this year,” he said. “It’s not something we anticipated. We’re not professional managers, and we admit that.”

Mills brings more than 20 years of industry experience to Maine Beer Company. Prior to joining Uinta in 2015, he worked with Duvel Moortgat USA and Boulevard Brewing Company.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Maine Beer Company,” Mills wrote to Brewbound. “I’ve known David and Dan since almost the beginning. They had such awesome vision for what they wanted Maine Beer to be: people focused, exceptional quality and supporting 1 percent For The Planet. And look at what they’ve built! It’s all about doing what’s right. I’m looking forward to contributing wherever I can.”

Mills is the latest notable departure from Uinta Brewing. Last June, longtime VP of sales Steve Kuftinec left the company to launch a craft distillery in the San Diego region. Around the same time, Lindsey Berk, who had served as the company’s chief branding officer and marketing director, left to join fast-growing Lord Hobo Brewing as its VP of marketing.

In a conversation with Brewbound, Uinta CMO Jeremy Ragonese, who joined the company in mid-2016, said he was surprised when Mills informed the company of his departure earlier this month.

“We are sad to lose him, but he has been a great team member and leader at Uinta Brewing Company, and we wish him the best,” he said.

Uinta has not yet identified a replacement, but The Riverside Company, a private equity firm that owns a majority stake in the brewery, has already tapped a recruiting firm to begin a formal search, Ragonese said.

“I know we are moving forward as rapidly as we can,” he said. “We want to find the right candidate, obviously, but the process has begun.”

In the meantime, Ragonese, alongside CFO Brandon Brown and recently appointed VP of sales Brian Curran, will lead the company.

“Our job is to execute the 2018 plan and that is what we’ve been doing all along,” Ragonese said. “Steve set us up in a good way, and we have some great innovation coming.”

Uinta produced about 93,000 barrels in 2017, Ragonese shared, up from 86,750 barrels in 2016.

The company is hoping to cross the 100,000-barrel threshold this year, he added, noting that new products such as Mango Lime Pilsner as well as Crisp Apple Ale could help stoke growth in 2018.

Additionally, Uinta plans to expand its distribution footprint to all 50 states, he said. Uinta products are currently sold in 45 states.

Mills, meanwhile, will relocate to Maine this summer and commute between Utah and Maine in the interim, Kleban said.

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