By Gregory Daurer | Apr 19, 2021
The co-founders say when they opened their rustic-feeling, spacious brewery, they set out to offer more than just beer: They wanted to establish themselves as what Moore calls a "community brewery," where -- as Fink puts it -- people could engage in storytelling as if they're sitting around a campfire in the great outdoors.
That outdoorsy vibe has been enhanced by their wraparound bar, over 30 feet long, made from ethically sourced redwood, weighing over 1,000 pounds. One of their experimental offerings was called Tree Beer, made with spruce tips and pine needles, which added, respectively, "resin-y/piney" and "citrus" character, says Fink. And another ale possessed the arboreal-themed name Deciduous Coniferous, a "tongue-in-cheek" moniker given to a beer meant to "bridge the gap between East and West Coast IPAs" (since deciduous trees are native to Eastern forests, and conifers cover the Western landscape), adds Fink.
Despite taking on a few tap accounts at restaurants around town, the beer was never meant to be enjoyed much beyond where it was made -- Fink and Moore's brewery base camp. However, COVID-19 led to some towering changes: namely, the canning of their beers. "We made the decision to truly jump in and shift our business plan and really concentrate on developing a strong additional avenue of revenue for our business," says Moore. "Now our canning is about 40 to 45 percent of our business," and products from Woods Boss can be found in about "45 retail locations throughout the greater Denver area."
In 2020, the brewery made close to 1,000 barrels of beer -- "17 percent more than the previous year," says Moore. Rather than offering just a few, select choices like a larger production brewery would, the brewery has canned around 40 unique beers over the past twelve months, including a Czech-style pilsner, their Irish coffee cream stout, and New England-style IPAs.
As if sitting around a campfire, Fink and Moore describe the adventures that took place while conceiving their brewery. They initially discussed joining forces in 2014: Fink already had professional experience, brewing at Tommyknocker Brewery, and Moore was a business operations and development specialist, who'd been working at Lockheed Martin.
But first, Fink had an assignment that took precedence: He'd agreed to help open Sherpa Brewery in Nepal. "We were working to start the first, American-style craft brewery in a country that did not have the infrastructure with which to support it," says Fink. At times, he had to make equipment parts by hand, teaching himself brewery engineering along the way. Fink left Nepal after the devastating earthquake in 2015 (which took place after he'd reached the base camp below Mount Everest). After returning to Colorado, he and Moore formally agreed to open their own brewery.
While Fink was searching for a space for the business, he kept in touch with Moore, who was taking a major road trip with his wife and dog. The trio spent several months in South America traveling in their customized Overlander truck, from Buenos Aires down to Patagonia, then up through Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, into Colombia, camping out along the way. "It was a wild ride," says Moore.
Fink and Moore opened their brewery in 2017, just a stone's throw from downtown Denver. "I make the beer and he runs the business," says Fink of their partnership. Twenty of the brewery's taps are devoted to their own beers. "Porter, stouts, saisons -- the point is, we'll find something for everybody," says Moore, who notes the brewery also offers gluten-free beer, kombucha, seltzer, and root beer. Besides the beer on tap, there are canned selections, as well as bottles of barrel-aged ales -- such as an Imperial Baltic Porter and a Belgian-style Tripel.
The name of the brewery comes from an actual job title previously bestowed on Fink: At one time, he was a woods boss in Oregon, overseeing nonprofit staff, who worked with groups of teenagers, as they built trails and performed environmental restoration duties.
Fink says Woods Boss is committed to both sustainability and good works. A water-intensive industry, he points out how most breweries employ four to eight gallons of water in the course of making one gallon of beer; but Fink says Woods Boss does better than the industry standard, using less than four, as a result of measures he's instituted within his 15-barrel brewhouse. And in 2019, 3 percent of revenue went towards good causes, Moore says, such as domestic violence prevention, youth mentorship, and wildlife conservation.
For Fink, running Woods Boss Brewing Company with Moore isn't all that different than being a woods boss. He says, "Woods Boss is all about work ethic -- working hard, doing it right, and relaxing well."
Favorite beers: Fink and Moore spotlight the breweries with which they've brewed collaboration beers. There's been a saison, incorporating jasmine rice as an ingredient, conceived with Portland, Oregon's Stormbreaker Brewing. Two Maryland breweries -- True Respite Brewing and 1623 Brewing Company -- joined forces with Woods Boss to concoct a New England-style IPA. And Bruz Beers has not only collaborated with Woods Boss on a Belgian pale ale, it assisted Fink and Moore's nascent business when it was opening and needed another beer for its taps. "I'm a huge fan of Belgian-style beers," says Fink about those types of ales that he and Bruz both brew.
Challenges: Moore cites "the ever-changing guidelines and restrictions and safety protocols of going through a pandemic." COVID-19 vaccinations occurring in greater numbers may lead to less restrictions on businesses, but Moore still cites concerns in regards to "taking care of employees -- and keeping them safe."
Opportunities: Now that canning their beer has led to new sources of revenue, Moore says the opportunity is "growing our reputation, our brand in the marketplace, as a retail competitor."
Needs: The brewery presently uses a mobile canning service. In order to keep the practice cost-effective, purchasing their own canning line may be on the horizon, says Fink.
Otherwise, Fink says they need "customers." And "beautiful weather," adds Moore, so those customers can enjoy pints at the brewery's outdoor consumption area, which complements its indoors redwood bar.