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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Squatters founder Peter Cole, left, and Wasatch Beers founder Greg Schirf merged their microbrewery operations in 2000 and opened a new bottling line in 2010.
Boston firm invests in Utah’s Squatters and Wasatch Beers
Brewing » Funding will boost distribution, pub expansion.
First Published Sep 27 2012 07:34 am • Last Updated Jan 07 2013 11:32 pm

A Boston-based private-equity firm, Fireman Capital Partners, has made a major investment in a Utah craft beer operation.

The investment, the amount of which was not disclosed, will support the expansion of Squatters and Wasatch Beers’ distribution, marketing and brew pub businesses, company officials said in a statement released Wednesday.

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The Squatters/Wasatch brewery in Salt Lake City sells beer in 12 states. The companies that own the brewery operate five brew pubs and restaurants in Salt Lake and Park City.

"This investment opens the door to the next level for Squatters and Wasatch, and provides the financial firepower and expertise we need to meet rapidly growing demand for our beer and to reach new markets," said Peter Cole, founding partner of Squatters.

Wasatch founder Greg Schirf will continue to manage brewery operations for the companies, while Squatter’s operating partner Joe Lambert will continue to oversee the restaurant businesses.

In addition, Schirf, Lambert, Cole and Jeff Polychronis will maintain ownership in the combined companies.

Fireman Capital partner Robert Spellman, a director of Au Bon Pain and former CFO of Staples and Yankee Candle, will oversee the investment for the Massachusetts firm.

Dan Fireman, managing partner of Fireman Capital, said the Utah companies have been built "on a combination of outstanding beer, a steadfast commitment to the environment, community, local sourcing and the best ingredients — and set apart by unique, witty and cheerfully subversive branding — [the] kind of successful, market-disrupting company we seek."

Craft brewing is a $1.1 billion industry in the United States, growing from 3 percent of total beer volume in 1994 to 6 percent today – and is expected to increase to 10 percent of total U.S. beer volume by 2016.

Polychronis and Cole opened Salt Lake’s original brew pub in 1989, and operate three pubs and a wine and ale house. In 1986, Schirf, owner and operator of Wasatch Beers and Wasatch Brewpub, opened Utah’s first microbrewery, in Park City.

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In 2000, Squatters and Wasatch merged their microbrewery operations for draft and bottle production, creating Utah Brewers Cooperative at 1763 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City.

Squatters and Wasatch bottled and draft beers are available in liquor stores, restaurants, clubs, hotels, resorts and grocery and convenience stores in Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Oregon.

The Squatters and Wasatch team employs more than 300 people.

Fireman Capital Partners invests in consumer-focused companies through growth equity and buyout transactions. The private-equity firm focuses on consumer businesses with annual revenue of $10 million to $150 million.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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