Aurora’s Mu Brewery moving up, not out


AURORA | After less than two years, Mu Brewery has maximized what they can accomplish at their East Colfax Avenue home.

But that doesn’t mean they are packing up and leaving Aurora behind.

“At least for the foreseeable future there is no reason for us to leave Aurora,” said owner and founder Nathan Flatland.

Instead, Flatland said the brewery is going to expand to a second location in Brighton.

That new spot — inside a remodeled Buddhist temple at 21 S. First St. — will be home to a taproom and the bulk of Mu’s brewing operations.

Mu will remain at their first home on Colfax, in the heart of the Aurora Cultural Arts District, but that location will change a bit. There will still be a taproom — Flatland said they could tweak their hours there based on seasonal needs — but with the brewing operations a few miles away, the brew house at the back of the storefront will become a storage area for Mu’s booming barrel-aged brews.

“We can fit about 150 barrels back there,” Flatland said.

The new location will have more than 5,500 square feet compared to about 1,700 square feet at the Aurora location.

“We are going to be able to about triple our brewing space,” he said.

Flatland said converting the old temple into a new brewery and taproom won’t be a massive project, either.

Already the owner of the property has made some renovations aimed at luring a brewery, including garage doors, patios and lighting. The area that will be the brew house is open dirt now, as is the bathroom, so they only have to worry about construction, not demolition.

“Most of the work has really already been done,” he said.

The goal is to move into the location in June, he said, but that timeline could change.

Opening a second location will put Mu in a pretty small group of craft brewers with more than one building.

Bart Watson, an economist with the Brewers Association in Boulder, said only about 10 percent of craft breweries around the country have more than one location, and most of those are “brewpubs.”

“My sense is that a multiple location model is becoming more common,” he said.

The increase is largely driven by the success of the taproom business model, he said.

Of Aurora’s half dozen breweries, just Dry Dock Brewing Co. has two locations.

Mu opened in June 2014 as Aurora’s third brewery — following Dry Dock Brewing Co. and Coda Brewing Co., which is now Ursula Brewery.

The brewery has built a loyal following and brews like their Beer-A-Mu-Su, a light ale that tastes remarkably like a tiramisu, have proved popular with beer lovers around the state.

Flatland said the bulk of their income these days comes not from the taproom, but from distributing their beers.

But while they’ve built that following, Flatland said the slow pace of development along Colfax has made growing the business there tough.

Mu is one of just a handful of bars or restaurants that dot the arts district, and Flatland said he doesn’t foresee business changing much at their Colfax location in the coming years.

“We think we’ve seen the max of what this area, at least for the foreseeable future, will accommodate growth-wise,” he said.

Still, Mu is less than four years into their 10-year lease at the storefront that was once a day laborer office.

That being the case, Flatland said they will keep their Aurora location going forward, though they might tweak its name to denote the new barrel-aging focus there.

“There’s no intent of leaving Aurora,” he said.

Still, with distribution growing a desire to barrel-age more beer than they could in a spot shared by the brewing operations, Flatland said they needed to venture out.

“We are kind of at a point where the rubber band is stretched a little bit,” he said.