Huss Brewing Acquires Papago Brewing Becomes Third-largest Arizona Brewery

Huss Brewing Co. has acquired Papago Brewing Co., making the Tempe-based brewery one of the largest in the Arizona craft brewery scene.

Though it was only founded in 2013, Huss is the fastest-growing brewery in the state; No. 13 in the nation among New Craft beer entries, according to national research firm IRI; and now predicted to end the year as Arizona’s third-largest brewery, based on industry standard Nielsen scan data, falling behind only Four Peaks and SanTan.

Huss is also in the process of opening a second location in midtown Phoenix’s Uptown Plaza.

But Huss’ founders, husband-and-wife duo Jeff and Leah Huss, have been in the Arizona craft beer game a long time. Jeff Huss was head brewer for BJ’s Brewing in Chandler for seven years and Leah co-owned and operated Papago Brewing in Scottsdale for 14 years.

The acquisition of Papago, which closed in late August at an undisclosed amount, was largely due in part to Leah’s history with Papago. She worked with the brewery until 2015 as a partner, when she sold her shares.

“We didn’t want to just walk in with a dollar amount. These are our friends, people we’ve known for a long time,” Leah said. “Johnny (Miller, Papago partner) plays Santa at our house every Christmas.”

Huss has done Papago’s contract brewing before even creating their own line of brews. And in 2014, the brewery began canning Huss brews like Koffee Kolsch as well as Papago’s brews, such as its immensely popular Orange Blossom mandarin wheat beer.

But Huss didn’t have control over how much distribution that beer would get, and once the team started looking at its growth and future — the brewing company is projected to produce 9,000 barrels this year — an acquisition made sense, said Chip Mulala, Huss sales chief.

“We took a calculator and measured our projected growth down to the gallon,” Mulala said. “The demand was there.”

Huss recruited Ryan Lake, director of Los Angeles-based First Beverage Group — who brokered the Anheuser-Busch acquisition of Four Peaks— to broker the deal.

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