Industry: Brewing & Beverage
Products: Brewing systems and controls
Founder Tommy Bibliowicz is growing production by balancing creativity with execution.
The brewery's schnozz-centric name originated at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, when a family friend commented on Bibliowicz and his father (Natan), mother (Jessica), and brother (David) as they sampled the wares. "He looked at us and we were nose-deep in our pints of Guinness," laughs Bibliowicz. "He joked, 'Look at those four noses go.'"
After studying finance at the University of Denver (DU), Bibliowicz returned to his native New York and worked in risk management, but he left his heart in the Rockies. "I absolutely loved Colorado," he says. It's where he met his wife, Megan, and it's where he wanted to start a brewery.
After homebrewing with his father in New York (thus launching the 4 Noses name), Bibliowicz switched career gears in 2013. Megan moved back to Colorado for law school at DU while Bibliowicz completed the six-month Master Brewers Program at University of California Davis. "I needed a little more education," he says. "While I was in brew school, we were looking for locations."
Construction, including installation of a Specific Mechanical Systems brewhouse, went smoothly and 4 Noses opened its doors in May 2014. The brewery has since added five tanks from Practical Fusion and Metalcraft Fabrication in Oregon, and a canning line from Wild Goose in early 2015. "Every time we add a tank, we add it before we need it," says Bibliowicz. "Within a month, we can't live without it."
Production roughly doubled from about 1,200 barrels in 2015 to about 2,500 in 2016. Cans represent about 80 percent of off-premise sales. The forecast calls for similar growth in 2017. "I'm hoping we can get to 4,500 barrels this year," he says.
4 Noses currently has four year-round cans and offers a variety of three- and six-month seasonals.
Debuting in spring 2016, 'Bout Damn Time IPA has emerged as a big bestseller, and now accounts for two-thirds of the brewery's sales. "We're fortunate with that one," says Bibliowicz. "The IPA market is challenging. A lot of our great inspirations come from California." Pointing to Russian River as a totem, he adds, "I've always been a big fan of California-style IPAs -- I like the lighter malt profile. . . . I wanted the hop character to start and dominate the beer, but I didn't want it to be bitter. I didn't want a palate wrecker."
The other year-round beers are Raspberry Blonde Ale, Proboscis Simcoe Pale Ale, and .44 Magnum Double IPA. The Ad Hoc series includes seasonals that play with the hops in standby recipes and experimental brews. "That to me is one of the most exciting and difficult part of the industry," says Bibliowicz of experimenting with hops.
But the success with cans hasn't tempered 4 Noses' experimentation. "We definitely mess around with some barrels," says Bibliowicz. "I love whiskey, and, if we ever have the opportunity, I would be interested in getting into distillation." To this end, 4 Noses has aged beers in Laprhroaig and Breckenridge Distillery barrels. A smoky Russian Imperial Stout, the former "is the most polarizing beer we've put out," he adds.
The brewery currently self-distributes in Colorado only, but Bibliowicz says he's aiming to expand past state lines in 2017. "We're looking for a state we can be an active participant in, rather than sending it and forgetting about it." Possibilities include New Mexico, Arizona, and Kansas.
Is Colorado hitting a saturation point with breweries? "I don't think so," answers Bibliowicz. "There's enough room for creativity and there always will be. A lot of breweries have different goals. A lot of breweries just want to serve the taproom. Our model is more around production. I wanted to grow the brand in that sense." He's quick to note, however, that the 4 Noses "taproom kept us afloat while we were building production."
Bibliowicz credits his employees with the brewery's strong start. "We have some really passionate people around here," he says. Bibliowicz recently recruited his classmate at UC Davis, Alex Rabe, as head of brewing operations, to join Steve Harshman in the brewhouse. "I finally put together my dream team."
Favorite beers: Of 4 Noses' offerings, Bibliowicz sounds a familiar refrain: "It's like asking which one of your kids is your favorite. I can't give you a straight answer. It depends on the day and the time and what I'm eating."
Beyond his own beers, he's got a lot of local favorites. "I was really impresses with Bierstadt's Slow Pour Pils. I've had some amazing IPAs at Odd13 and Station 26. [Station 26's] Juicy Banger is one of the standout IPAs in the state. For lagers, I love going to Wibby."
Challenges: Changes in Colorado state law. Phasing full-strength beer into Colorado's grocery stores, SB 197 is fraught with challenges. "There are a lot of changes we as small brewers have got to make," says Bibliowicz. But big chains aren't ignoring the little guys: "A lot of the stores have been good about reaching out and trying to get those relationships established."
At both liquor stores and draught accounts, "Beer buyers understand the importance of going out and finding self-distributed beers," he adds. "A few years ago, it was easy for buyers to go with one or two distributors." Not anymore. "They're doing their homework," he adds.
Another: "With Anheuser-Busch buying up small breweries, it really does cloud the definition of craft. It takes the real heart out ot it, heart being our creativity as individual owners." He adds, "In a passion-driven industry, it has to be led by passion and followed by business."
Opportunities: "More varieties," says Bibliowicz. "Any opportunity we have to create something fun and new and put it on the market, that's opportunity number one."
Collaboration is a second opportunity. "This is going to be out year of collaboration," he says. "I can't think of any other industry that you get together with direct competitors and share trade secrets." He has beers in the works with Wibby and other local breweries. "When you add another brewing team to the equation, you get a whole different mindset."
Wild and sour beers are another growth area. "I'm still learning and messing around with bacteria," says Bibliowicz. "That's a passion for me, but it takes a lot of trial and error."
Needs: "I would says it's always space, whether it's cold-storage space or fermentations space" says Bibliowicz. The brewery is set to expand into an adjacent unit at its current location, he adds, which would give it plenty of runway. "We could triple our production."