The pandemic certainly wasn’t good for breweries. But it did force many to rethink the way they do business, and now, as the smoke clears, a few are in a position to succeed like never before.
One of these is Woods Boss Brewing, which is in the midst of a major expansion that will add a new, 3,400-square-foot event space and music venue, a canning line capable of sealing eighteen cans per minute and expanded capacity that will allow it to brew twice as much beer.
When the changes are complete sometime in June, the Lodge at Woods Boss, as the new space is called, will have a separate entrance around the corner from the brewery at 2210 California Street, at 675 22nd Street (though there is a connecting hallway inside the building), with twelve taps, a stage and a sound system. It will also have a similar woodsy aesthetic, complete with a bar made from a Siberian elm tree and an A-frame above the bar.
“None of this was part of the plan,” says Chad Moore, who founded Woods Boss with Jordan Fink in 2017. “The pandemic obviously changed that dramatically."
They started the transformation on March 17, 2020, the day that a statewide lockdown shut down breweries for on-site drinking. Woods Boss, with its large, event-centered taproom, had relied on having people — lots and lots of people — inside at all times, drinking beer on tap, listening to music, hanging out on the couches. Moore and Fink weren’t equipped for packaging beer or selling it to go.
To keep the doors open, they realized, that would have to change — quickly. So Woods Boss, like dozens of other Colorado breweries, hired a mobile canning company to package its beer. By May, the company was aggressively selling those cans to liquor stores from Castle Rock to Boulder and everywhere in between.
By July, the brewery was making more beer than ever before. “We had to ask ourselves, do we invest and take this thing by the horns?” Moore says. The answer came from the brewery’s landlord, who asked if Woods Boss would be interested in another space in the building that had been vacated as a result of the pandemic.
Their immediate answer was “No” — immediately followed by a “Well, maybe,” and then “Yes.”
Fink says the added capacity — two new thirty-barrel fermenters and two thirty-barrel brite tanks, along with a second cooler — will allow Woods Boss to increase its capacity from around 1,200 barrels in 2020 to 2,500 per year down the road. The canning line will give Fink and his brewing staff the ability to better control which beers they make and when — and how much.
Although Woods Boss does have some year-round flagship beers, like Oswald New England Style IPA, Fruity Flash Kettle Sour and Foothills Fire Red (10 percent of sales goes to support firefighters), the brewery typically has twelve to fifteen different cans out in the market, especially hazy pale ales and IPAs, along with saisons, traditional German-style lagers, English-style ales and West Coast IPAs.
“I like to make everything,” Fink says, adding that the brewery doesn’t specialize in one style because tastes are always changing and there are always a wide variety of beers on tap in the taproom. That “philosophy” holds true with Woods Boss’s canned beers as well, and will continue with the new canning line.
Moore and Fink acknowledge that they are taking a big risk, but it's a calculated one — and the result could end up helping the brewery survive long into the future. "Fifty percent of our revenue is now in cans because our taproom revenue is so down," says Moore. "That's a new revenue stream for us." And although taproom business is likely to rebound, along with Woods Boss's event business, packaging now offers a way forward.
"Everyone, all of us, were able to change," Moore concludes. "I credit this to the way we were able to adapt and make it happen."
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