The Great American Beer Festival: A Brewer's Perspective

It’s that time of year again: beer lovers’ right index finger tendinitis is slowly subsiding after anxiously refreshing the Ticketmaster website over and over and over again in hopes of scoring tickets to the most anticipated bacchanalia of the year – the Great American Beer Festival. As important as the dog days of summer are for potential festival goers, late July and early August are crunch time for us brewers as we agonize over which beers to enter into which categories, most likely brew those beers so they are as fresh as they can be for judging, and bottle, deliver, and pray for our precious creations as they await their fate for six weeks in a warehouse before reaching a trained palate. GABF is a tremendous production, which the Brewers Association executes very well year after year, and Twisted Pine Brewing Company is quite pleased to once again participate in the competition and, above all, pour tasters for all you thirsty patrons.

    By the time the festival rolls around, all the hard work for us is done. To me, GABF is sweat-drenched, stifling, late afternoons cleaning the kettle after brewing a beer I believe in. GABF is not pretzel necklaces and ooohing and aaahing about every single plastic tasting vessel clattering to the floor. The only thing I want around my neck is a medal. Let’s face it, as fun as it is to catch up with brewers from around the country and share a sip and a story or two with attendees from all over the world, GABF is really about hearing the sonorous voice of Chris Swersey, the Brewers Association’s MC, beckoning your brewery to take the stage. Every ounce of sweat in August could be worth its weight in gold come October.

    As a lucky brewer, this year will be my fourth GABF, and despite having won three medals since 2012, I still have no idea what makes for an award-winning beer in the judges’ eyes, noses, and palates. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Or, as one very successful veteran brewer once told me, “Beers don’t change, but judges do.” Winning a medal at GABF of any shade is very difficult. Last year, 275 total medals were split among 242 breweries. Judging certainly is not easy, and from what I have heard from those who have participated is that it’s almost like sprinting a marathon with one’s palate. Tasting one style after another for several hours a day over several days – no matter how properly ordered and spaced out they are – sounds pretty brutal and not all that enjoyable.

    Nonetheless, the festival always lives up to its name. The number of beers to sample is, quite frankly, overwhelming. Every year, I’ve made a list of specific breweries to check out, and every year I have failed to get to most of them because I was sidetracked by so many other tasty options. With so many breweries in attendance, waiting in line for any one of them is ludicrous to me. Spending ten minutes or more of a single session on one ounce of one beer is both dedicated and shortsighted. Trying a beer from an unknown brewery and finding a few hidden gems in the ocean of beer is often more rewarding than catching whales and figuring out if a brewery is worth the hype.

    Twisted Pine Brewing Company is excited to spend time and share tasters with all of you, and just like last year, we will be pouring in the Meet the Brewer Section, meaning instead of volunteers doing all the hard work, it will be one of us. After all, we’ll be there to do what we love most- meet consumers and enjoy beer together. Hope to see ya’ll in October. Cheers!

An Open Letter to Twisted Pine Consumers

Dear Twisted Pine Patrons,

As Twisted Pine Brewing Company is approaching its 21st birthday, we have made the life-changing decision to shed the shackles of wide-scale distribution and embrace who we really are: proud brewers who want to serve our Boulder community one pint at a time. From a brewer’s perspective, focusing solely on supplying our 24-tap alehouse is a dream come true because instead of packaging our core products, we are planning new recipes for our ever-rotating specialty taps. Furthermore, by serving every drop of our beer across the bar instead of in liquor stores near and far, we are able to ensure that our patrons are enjoying our beer the way we as brewers intended—fresh, unique, and of top quality.

To me, brewing is about control, creativity, and pride. We control our brewing parameters as tightly as possible to craft the best beers possible. Packaging and distribution rob us brewers of control because we don’t know if our beers are being cared for the way we cared for them in the brewhouse and in the cellar. We have no control over what our patrons’ experience will be once our precious creations leave our brewery.

Distribution hems creativity because it dictates the production schedule, leaving fewer opportunities to experiment with new ingredients, processes, and beer styles. Billy’s Chilies is one of our most sought-after beers, Ghost Face Killah is a one-of- a-kind creation, Big Shot Espresso Stout has won more awards than any other of our beers—all are wonderful in their own right—but those beers shouldn’t define us as brewers by virtue of their wide distribution. We’re hop heads. We adore lagers. We like to keep beers simple and sessionable. 

We’re proud of all the beers we brew, but distribution has a way of eroding that aspect of brewing as well. For better or for worse, I consider beer to be extremely personal. It’s not only a personal expression of the brewer. Everyone’s palate is nuanced, people’s taste preferences can be just plain different, and sometimes the same beer will taste different based on one’s mood—seriously. Whether it’s praise or pooh-poohing, receiving instantaneous feedback from our patrons by exclusively serving our beers in the taproom makes us better brewers. As much as we, the brewers, love the beers we choose to brew and present to our patrons on tap, YOUR satisfaction is the lifeblood to the company and the key to a brewer’s heart. We take tremendous pride in our beers and the community we serve them to, and the best way to enhance both is by sharing as many pints and experiences in the cozy confines of our taproom as possible.

Kay Witkiewicz, Head Brewer

FEBRUARY'S PARTY WITH A PURPOSE - IMAGINE! ART SHOW

On Thursday, 2/25, we will have the pleasure of hosting an art show for Imagine! as our February Party with a Purpose.  The event will run from 4-8pm and feature works created by Imagine! artists that work for Twisted Pine and others that participate in this great organization’s art program.  Artwork will be displayed and available for purchase through a silent auction -- plus we’ll have a live art display by one of our crafty coworkers! 

Over the past five years of working with Imagine!, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing individuals and have really grown to appreciate the tremendous efforts of this local, Boulder County non-profit.  Gerald Stopa, who works here as our Beer Inventory Specialist and is one of our dearest friends, was recently honored at the Imagine! Celebration where this video was debuted.  It’s a nice glimpse into the life of a strong man with a powerful will, and we’re proud to have him employed here. 

 

See you all next Thursday for good cheer and great beer!

MAKIN’ BIG BUCKS FOR THE LITTLE GUYS

Twisted Pine helps raise over $30k for community in 2015

It’s October -- the spookiest month of the year & one dedicated to awareness of the spookiest part of the body: the boob! At Twisted Pine Brewing Company, it’s been another opportunity for us to open our ale house to host a community non-profit & help raise some cash for a good cause. For this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we just finished a Pints with a Purpose night ($1 from every pint sold that day goes to charity!) for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, plus completed a team walk with Making Strides (the Pink Ribbon walk) in Denver over the weekend.

But boob health & cancer awareness aren’t the only causes we care about at The Pine. We’ve helped raise over $30,000 since January for over a dozen local charities. To name a few, we’ve hosted such organizations as Rocky Mountain Riding Therapy, which offers therapeutic horseback riding to kids & adults with physical, emotional & cognitive disabilities; Joseph’s Journey, a wilderness experience for kids with life-threatening illnesses; and Bridges to Prosperity, an organization that provides materials & knowhow for rural communities worldwide to build footbridges over impassable rivers.

We host deserving non-profits through a suite of pretty cool events, the two most popular of which include:

  • Pints with a Purpose: One dollar from every beer sold on a given day goes to that day’s featured organization. Mobilize your audience to down a few (responsibly) for charity!

  • Party with a Purpose: Ten percent of the day’s sales go to charity & silent auctions are encouraged. Joseph’s Journey took home $16,000 from their silent auction!

It seems that fostering community & sharing the spotlight should be an essential part of any craft brewery. At Twisted Pine, especially, where our community provides the bulk of our business, giving non-profits the space to treat to locals makes our house feel ten folds (Ben Folds?) larger than it really is. It turns the humble cement cavern that is our brewery into a bucolic frasca -- a countryside gathering place where locals can share homemade wine & spit-roasted hog meat & discuss the world’s great philosophical mysteries. Or, in our case, swill IPAs with pizza and argue about bike lanes.

Next up for October, we’ve got a Party with a Purpose planned for Attention Homes on 10/17. Ten percent of the day’s sales will go to an organization that assists at-risk youth. We’ll have barbecue (speaking of hog meat), paired flights, and all sorts of other fun stuff planned.

Be sure to check the Events Calendar at www.twistedpinebrewing.com for more upcoming event info & don’t forget to #staytwisted.