Longtime Uinta Brewing vice president of sales Steve Kuftinec will depart the Salt Lake City, Utah-based organization in June, the company announced today.
In an interview with Brewbound, Kuftinec said he was leaving to launch a craft distillery, Highway 101 Spirits, which will be located in the San Diego region.
“I have this entrepreneurial itch that I have been looking to scratch,” he said. “I am knocking on the door of 50 (years old), and I really want to scratch this itch and see if we can do it.”
Kuftinec said he would not relocate to San Diego and instead plans to “geo-commute” about 150 days per year while he builds Highway 101 Spirits.
The spirits project is expected to launch later this year, and Kuftinec said he expects to produce “whiskey, rye, bourbon and a few vodkas and gins,” for the local San Diego market. Long-term plans call for broader distribution and $6 million in sales by year six, he added.
Kuftinec began his career with Uinta in 1999 and retained a small ownership stake in the business when it was sold to The Riverside Company, a private equity firm with offices in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio.
Kuftinec will maintain his stake in the brewery and serve as an unofficial “advisor” after his departure on June 5. Until then, he will continue to oversee all aspects of sales and distribution while the company searches for his replacement.
CEO Steve Mills told Brewbound that a search is already underway, and that the company is hopeful a new VP will be identified by May.
Uinta, which produced 86,750 barrels of beer in 2016, has projected growth of nearly 20 percent in 2017, Kuftinec and Mills said. The company currently sells its beer in 37 states, and it plans to expand distribution into eight new markets in 2017. The company will enter Hawaii and Indiana this month, the pair told Brewbound.