It’s a big world out there, full of giant trees, open spaces and potent beers. Jordan Fink and Chad Moore have seen a chunk of it, and now they’re planning to bring some of it indoors at Woods Boss Brewing.
The new brewery, at 2210 California Street, is centered around three massive slabs of redwood (sustainably harvested). The first two make up a stunning 21-foot-long bar, which ends in a massive tree burl, six feet in diameter, that will remind drinkers just how big the world is when they try to reach across to grab their beers. The third is another 21-foot slab, beautifully finished and lined with couches, that will serve as a long coffee table and the social centerpiece of the taproom.
The space itself, at 5,400 square feet, has twenty-foot-high ceilings and room for 160 people. Big. In the back, Fink and assistant brewer Ryan Logan have a fifteen-barrel brewing system (most breweries begin with five- or seven-barrel systems) and a hulking walk-in cooler. Fink, who has been a professional brewer on and off for about five years, plans to use it to fully stock twenty taps in front with a wide variety of beers.
“I love pale ales, saisons, the crushable beers,” he says. “And I love the huge beers. They are a challenge to do well.” But he’s got plans to do several of them well down the road. Again, big.
In the meantime, though, Fink and Moore want to provide as colorful a spectrum of styles as possible. “Anyone who walks off the street should be able to find something they like on tap,” Fink says.
While some breweries in Denver set themselves apart by focusing on specific styles, like sours or IPAs, Moore says Woods Boss doesn’t want to limit its customer base. “There are two kinds of craft-beer drinkers out there. The enthusiasts, who want to know everything about the beer, what's in it, how it’s different. And then there are those who just want to hang out with friends or family and have a good time,” Moore explains. “There are significantly more people who love craft beer who are not necessarily beer geeks than there are beer geeks. The question is, how do you pull everyone in together? How do you cater to both crowds?"
The answer, they hope, is by providing a big, comfortable place to hang out with any number of beers. Some they’ve already brewed include a lovely Belgian blonde in collaboration with Bruz Beers; a SMaSH (single malt, single hop) pale ale with Marris Otter and Ekunaut hops; a kettle sour in collaboration with the Brewability Lab, an imperial IPA collaboration at Factotum Brewhouse; a cream ale; a hybrid amber/saison; an oatmeal brown; a "Colorado-style" IPA; a juniper wheat; an Irish-influenced red; and a New England-style IPA. There’s also an ESB and a pink-peppercorn rye saison on the way.
Fink came late to the brewing industry. Originally from New York, he moved to Colorado in 1995 for college and spent several years working for the United States Forest Service building and designing trails near Vail. He also lived in the Pacific Northwest doing trail and conservation work, environmental education, and job- and life-skill training with high school students in the Northwest Youth Corps. That’s where he got the name for the brewery; his title on the trail was "woods boss.” After moving back to Colorado from Alaska, where he was a high school science teacher, Fink worked a variety of jobs and became a firefighter before taking a look at brewing.
Fink’s first gig was in 2010 at Tommyknocker Brewing in Idaho Springs, where he got to work with the guys who would eventually go on to become the lead brewers at Westfax Brewing, Lariat Lodge and Elevation Beer. After that, he spent seven months helping to set up the first craft brewery in Nepal before returning to Colorado and going back to Tommyknocker and eventually to Odyssey Beerworks in Arvada. He left that job last February to work full-time setting up Woods Boss.
Moore took a different path — even if it led him to the same place. Also from back east, he started a couple of businesses before deciding to move to Colorado to take a job as a project engineer for Lockheed Martin. Before all of that, though, Moore — a former Eagle Scout — spent some time camping and traveling across the United States, visiting nineteen national parks along the way; that was followed by two months in South Africa hiking and camping. More recently, Moore and his wife, Katie, spent seven months traveling and camping in their retrofitted truck through South America, all the while planning for Woods Boss — over Skype — with Fink.
The two first met Colorado-style: at a Railroad Earth jam-band concert, where they were introduced by mutual friends. They ran into each other a second time at another jam-band concert — Phish this time — and started talking about beer. (A similar Colorado-style meeting also happened with two other current brewers.) Both wanted to open a brewery. “We felt like it was a good fit,” Moore says. “We work really well together.”
And now that they are about to open, Moore says, “The vision of what we imagined for this is almost spot-on. It represents the values and ideas that we both have, and this is what came out of it.”
The building also has an interesting story. Built in the early 1900s, the 17,000-square-foot warehouse was most recently home to a car, magazine and sundries collector who left many things behind. When VanWest Partners bought the property last year, it found new homes for many of the collections. In addition to Woods Boss, the renovated structure will also house stores, restaurants and offices.
For the interior, Woods Boss kept one of the original roll-top doors in back and added two enormous garage doors in front; one will lead to a patio with room for more than forty people. In addition to the other features made from lumber, the brewery sports tables made from split pine logs, which can also be found in the entryway and as the support structure for the bar. Beetle-kill wood and bricks line the walls.
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There are a couple of breweries within walking distance of Woods Boss, including Spangalang, Jagged Mountain and Great Divide, but Fink and Moore feel like they are going to be in a separate space, especially since there are three or four high-rise condo and apartment buildings going up on all sides of them. Once dominated by the enormous Limousine Express bus terminal just off Park Avenue, the neighborhood is changing rapidly, they point out, and is becoming more of an extension of downtown.
“It will be chaos for a while, but then we will be right at the center of the neighborhood,” Fink says.
Woods Boss will host a couple of soft openings this week before holding a grand-opening party on Friday, August 11.