Industry: Brewing & Distilling
President Bob Baile keeps his legacy brewery fresh by balancing local, traditional, and experimental.
"Twisted Pine from the start has been a very experimental facility," says Baile.
About a decade ago, a customer showed Baile a beer label from his travels abroad. Baile had never heard of an "Imperial Porter" before, but he decided his brewery ought to make one. Now, sitting for sale in a refrigerator within the brewery are several vintages dating back to 2011 of Northstar Imperial Porter in bomber bottles. Some vintages are on tap, as well. The addition of the Belgian specialty malt, Special B, gives the brew "just the tiniest bit of plum flavor," says Baile.
There's a braggot which won a gold at the Great American Beer Festival in the "Specialty Honey Beer" category. It incorporates a saison yeast, which Baile notes "gives it a nice fruity flavor."
And Twisted Pine makes chile beers, including Billie's Chilies ("One of the first chile beers," according to Baile, which is made with five chiles, including Serrano and habanero) and Ghost Face Killah (which has the addition of ghost pepper -- one of the hottest peppers on the planet -- leading a taproom server to describe the beer as "scary" as he sets it down). "You're turning red," comments Baile about this reporter's face after he's taken a sip of the latter beer.
A year after the brewery opened in 1995, Baile bought Twisted Pine and the brewery won at the GABF for its amber ale, Twisted Amber. That specific beer had been brewed by its previous owner, the late Gordon Knight, a storied figure in the Colorado beer scene. Calling Knight "humble" in demeanor and "immaculate" in brewing, Baile says, "I miss Gordon every day." They came to know each other when Baile bought some used brewing equipment from Knight, as Baile was opening his first brewery, Peak to Peak, in Rollinsville; it was the same equipment New Belgium had used when that brewery started, before New Belgium founder Jeff Lebesch sold it to Knight.
Baile first began homebrewing while still working as a biochemist in Boulder: "I didn't just like the science part [of brewing], I liked the art of it all." Noting one highlight of his former career, Baile says, "I was responsible for the world's supply of Aleve, at one time."
Speaking of headaches: Although Twisted Pine started off as a production brewery, it discontinued packaging beer in 2016. Baile says, "At our peak, we were in 13 states, but still it was tough. It was brutal, it's a tough market. We didn't have the economies of scale."
Is Baile comfortable with the decision to stop distribution? "1,000 percent," he says. "There's not a single regret -- for a zillion reasons. Margins were so low. Packaging was a pain in the ass." As an example of that pain, Baile cites the brewery's 10 percent loss of beer during bottling.
During early 2010s, Twisted Pine produced about 1,000 to 1,500 barrels per year. Now, production sits at around 800 to 900 barrels annually, and Baile says, "Dollars per square foot, we're doing a whole lot better than when we ever did with packaging."
The brewery's taproom selection has increased to 30 different beers, drawing locals during the week, beer tourists on the weekend. Although Twisted Pine sits in a semi-industrial neighborhood in Boulder, Baile notes that 1,200 residential units have recently sprung up nearby, with another 380 to come. "We have become a neighborhood bar," he says.
Looking back, Baile says, "When we first started out, I did all the brewing, I did all the delivering, I did the ordering, I did everything." Nowadays, the 65-year-old says he hires smart people, offers input as needed, conferences with his general manager and ownership group, and welcomes customers. And he even sweeps the front steps when it's called for.
Baile says one of the unique aspects of his brewery's beers is a slight caramelization to them -- a result of using a gas-fired -- rather than steam-fired -- kettle in the brewhouse. The 15-barrel operation also uses open fermenters, which Baile says improves the flavor.
"What we try to [offer] with all our beers is complexity," says Baile. "I can't stand one-dimensionality."
Favorite beers: These days, Baile's "go-to beer" from Twisted Pine is Patio Pounder, a GABF-winning Session India Pale Ale with notes of grapefruit and tangerine -- and an almost cannabis-like aroma. Baile says, "What I'm most proud about this beer is that it's only 4.7 percent alcohol, and yet it has a boatload of flavor in it."
Beyond his brewery's taps, Baile is a local booster: "It's hard to go wrong, especially in Boulder," he says. "Everybody's making good beers for the most part."
When Baile gets back to the East Coast (he grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, which his "ancestors signed the charter to incorporate"), he travels to Cooperstown, New York. Besides the Baseball Hall of Fame, there's Brewery Ommegang: "I've been to Ommegang several times. Big fan -- huge fan. Besides, [they use] open-fermentation, too."
On the West Coast, there's an old standout: "I've always loved, for a variety of reasons, Sierra Nevada."
And there was the time he walked into that small, newly-opened brewery in Tampa, Florida, spending time talking with the owner and brewer. "It turned out to be Cigar City," he says. "I really enjoyed their beers at the time. They were young and they were fun."
Challenges: "Keeping the level of customer service we have, maintaining it," says Baile. "We have very high expectations of our staff. Our customers are super-important."
Besides a 1,500-square-foot taproom, there's an 1,800-square-foot events space (within the 10,000-square-foot facility). It hosts trivia contests, family gatherings, dart games, and other merriment. Baile says it "can get crowded" on many a night.
Opportunities: "Introducing craft beers to more and more people," says Baile. "Spreading the gospel. It has been since day one -- and I still believe in it."
Needs: With equipment invariably either needing repairs or maintenance, as well as new equipment and a bar top (with an ice trough down the length of it) that he wants to buy, Baile says, "Capital -- always. And anybody that doesn't tell you that they can use more money is lying to you."