Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.
From 420 Extra Pale Ale to variety-specific IPAs to an annual 420 Festival, SweetWater Brewing has made a name for itself over the past twenty years for its association with cannabis and the marijuana lifestyle.
It’s a big reason the Atlanta-based brewery was bought by global cannabis company Tilray last year, and also a big reason why SweetWater, the country’s 10th largest craft beer maker, is choosing to open a second brewery decided in Pott. friendly Colorado, along with a branded public house at Denver International Airport.
But SweetWater may not be able to serve its flagship 420 ale at DIA or make reference to cannabis there, thanks to the airport’s longstanding policy of banning marijuana souvenirs.
“It all has to be family-friendly,” says DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. “SweetWater will not be able to promote their 420 or Pot themed materials or products.”
The airport’s no-pot policy was introduced in late 2014 after a businesswoman complained that DIA officials were preventing her from selling flip-flops and boxer shorts with pot-leaf prints to a gift shop. The rule makes it illegal to “sell, display, or advertise any product that bears the image, likeness, description, or name of marijuana or marijuana-themed paraphernalia; and to promote a marijuana-related business or establishment” on DIA .
Trainwreck Hazy Double IPA is one of SweetWater Brewing’s variety-specific beers.
The pot ban is news to SweetWater co-founder and CEO Freddy Bensch. “From now on we want to [sell it], “he says about the marijuana brand beer.” In this day and age with legalization [in so many states]”We have a feeling we will serve about 420.”
SweetWater was founded in 1997 and brewed its first beer on April 20th of that year, giving its name to 420 Extra Pale Ale. Over the years, it has cultivated its connections with environmental protection, outdoor activities, and cannabis. Last year it was bought by Toronto-based Tilray, which is helping the brewery grow.
On July 12, SweetWater announced that it had purchased the building and equipment from Red Truck Brewing, which made a splash three years ago at 1020 East Lincoln Avenue in Fort Collins but remained closed after pandemic restrictions ended earlier this year . The Fort Collins site, which includes a 32,450 square foot manufacturing facility, taproom and restaurant, will enable SweetWater to “pursue major expansion plans in the US and West Coast,” the company said.
The announcement also included news that SweetWater would give its name to a restaurant and taproom in the B Concourse at DIA and join local breweries like Great Divide and New Belgium at the airport. The SweetWater spot is slated to open in the next few weeks, says Stegman.
With or without 420 ale.
Keep Westword Free … Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we want it to stay that way. We offer our readers free access to concise coverage of local news, food and culture. We produce stories about everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with bold coverage, stylish writing, and staff who have won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award to the Casey Medal for the Deserving Journalism. But with the existence of local journalism under siege and the setbacks in advertising revenues having a greater impact, it is now more important than ever for us to raise funds to fund our local journalism. You can help by joining our “I Support” membership program, which allows us to continue to cover Denver without paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is from Denver and writes about business and beer for Westword.