Resilient

Opened, closed, in-person, to-go, whatever, Twisted Pine is still standing

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Michael J Casey

Bob Baile has a lot of love to spread around.

“I gotta tell you how great the city has been to us,” he says. When the pandemic hit, the powers that be in Boulder allowed him to flip a portion of his parking lot into a beer garden. They approved a grant that allowed him to build a permanent roof over the existing patio — and did it fast.

“They said, ‘Submit your plans and get going, don’t even wait for us to approve it,’” Baile recounts. “We had somebody here within 24 hours after we submitted our plans.”

It’s praise you’ll hear from a lot of brewery owners these days. The community support during COVID was crucial, but without the variety of lifelines local and federal governments tossed out, there’s no way a place like Twisted Pine Brewing Company would still be standing today.

Twisted Pine and Baile go way back. A homebrewer-gone-pro, Baile bought Twisted Pine from Gordon Knight back in 1996 when the facility was on Valmont Road. In 2003, Baile moved the operation to the brewery’s current location on Walnut Street. That’s around the time when Bill Marshall joined as co-owner. Since then, Twisted Pine has mirrored the numerous expansions and contractions of the greater craft beer industry. But one of Baile and Marshall’s key decisions came in 2016 when they decided to cease packaging and distribution. As Marshall explains, “instead of making a lot of a couple things, we make a little of a lot of things.”

At the time, Twisted Pine’s move off store shelves seemed like a risk for a legacy brewery. But it paid off. They converted their packaging line into a spacious events room. Pre-pandemic, Baile called the decision “one of the best” they’ve ever made. And as business returns in the next two years, it might well be. But in 2020, when the events business dried up and Twisted Pine’s revenue plummeted 80%, “It hurt a bunch.”

That wasn’t half of it. First came the initial shut down in March, then the pivot to curbside sales and delivery. Summer carried a glimmer of hope in the form of patio dining, but when a staff member was exposed to COVID, Baile and Marshall made the call to shut the operation down for deep cleaning and quarantining. They opened back up, but the weather in the fall was spotty, and the State shut everyone back down in November. The winter was lean, and sales were minuscule.

“It’s all a blur. We’re trying to forget it,” Baile says, adding with a cagey grin: “Thanks for bringing it back up.”

But now Twisted Pine is poised to come out of it. And with a new head brewer to boot: Jeff Griffith, an alumnus of Golden City Brewing, Odyssey Beerwerks and FATE Brewing Company. Baile couldn’t be happier. “He fits in here like a hand in a glove.” And as long as Griffith makes sure Twisted Pine’s 10 core beers remain on tap, he’s got “20 tap handles to play with.”

Plus Baile and Marshall have a dining room, patio and parking lot to fill. The outdoor beer garden remains, and inside they’re bringing back the tables. Weekly trivia has returned on Wednesday nights, and they’ve even had an event in the back. Along the way, they’ve upgraded the air filtration system and switched from table to counter service — they call it the “Dark Horse model.”

“It’s going to be an interesting next few months,” Marshall says, adding that they already see the long-promised pent-up demand. The time for survival is coming to a close. “Now it’s back to being innovative, put out new things.”

“Breweries are very resilient,” Baile says. “We all had this absolute fucking determination, for some reason or another, and it probably came to play in it all.” 

History from 35,000 feet

Living through history is one thing. Passing it on to the next generation is another. In 10, 20 years, when we teach the era of COVID-19, what stories will we tell?

“As far as our particular situation [the pandemic showed] how much people are willing to participate in your future,” Baile says.

“I just hope people maintain that level of caring about everyone,” Marshall adds. “What are we going to do to get through this? What can I do to help?”

“Twenty years from now, 10 years from now, when we look back, I’m hoping people see how people came together,” Baile says. “Whether it was on our local level, local economic level, whether it was our landlord … I’m hoping people see how people pitched in.”