Address: 4630 Forge Road
Motto: “Serving Those Who Serve”
The thought of spending life sitting sedentary behind a desk terrified U.S. Army veteran Todd Baldwin.
“I didn’t serve so I would have to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life,” Baldwin said.
In 2009, after serving as an artillery officer in Iraq for more than two years, the 27-year-old thought, “Is my life really over?” Now 30, Baldwin has become owner and president of Red Leg Brewing Company — and he has no plans to push pencils again.
The military-themed brewery opened July 4 and already is popular among certain circles of vets, retirees and young beer-lovers. But Baldwin planned for more than just another bar to tempt young soldiers into over-indulgence — he dreamed of a haven to “serve those who served,” as he put it.
Red Leg’s three-man team exudes that philosophy: Baldwin, the head honcho; master brewer Jeff Lockhart, an Army vet with 15 years of beer-making experience; and assistant brewer Michael Acerra, Todd’s brother-in-law who also handles quality assurance.
“They’ve been a great group of guys to work with,” said Brandon Anderson, who owns LIVstudio, the company that designed the brewery and taproom. “We’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of good people, and getting to know Todd and the team has been the most memorable part.”
The crew works full-time to pretty up the place, brew 150 gallons of beer each week and serve their products at the taproom in the front of their space at 4639 Forge Road.
Red Leg — a nickname for artillerymen coined during the Civil War — is a production brewery, which means that it is focused on simply producing and serving these select beers rather than serving specialty drinks and/or food like a bar or brewpub.
“Our mission is different,” Baldwin said. “We’re going to try to go national with it and become the ‘craft beer of the military.’”
Baldwin said that of the six or seven beers on the tap room’s menu at any given time, there are always constants that he calls the Flagship Five:
SGT PILS, a pre-Prohibition style pilsner named in honor of the Army;
Cutter WIT, a light-bodied and malty wheat beer with hints of citrus and a Coast Guard theme;
Blue Nose Brown, a brown ale with chocolate and brown malt named for the Navy;
Devil Dog Stout, a medium-bodied stout with coffee and spicy rye notes made for Marines;
DO-Little IPA, an English India Pale Ale with a name saluting the Air Force.
Craft beers and howitzers
Baldwin says he’s always been a beer lover, but didn’t get into the craft until his stint near Nashville and subsequent exposure to the microbrewery culture.
“I’ve always been into beer, but I probably got turned on to craft beer when I got back in 2009,” Baldwin said. “I was like ‘this stuff is great,’ and I really got into it.”
Since he joined the military, the Iowa-born veteran said he has moved 15 times and lived in such places as Nashville, Little Rock and Virginia, where he met his sweetheart Jamie. The two were married just last year, and when the time came to pick a new place, Jamie picked colorful Colorado.
“I think they picked their locale really well,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty crucial because of the military presence and [Red Leg’s] dedication to those people. I think their location in the Springs is crucial to that.”
Baldwin’s interest in the Pikes Peak region is obvious: There are five military installations and more than 40,000 active-duty personnel in Colorado Springs alone.
He said that he wanted to help young veterans returning home from war, and came upon an epiphany that he could intermingle that with the other: beer.
Red Leg already has hosted fundraisers for military advocacy organizations such as the Wounded Warriors Project and plans to sell a specialty beer starting in October that will support the Peterson AFB Airmen and Family Readiness Center.
“That’s what we want to keep doing, because that’s our mission. It’s most important,” Baldwin said.
The changing tide
Baldwin said when he was ready to realize the dream he had mapped out on paper, no banks would support him. Much to his chagrin, he shelled out more than $300,000 of the couple’s own capital to kick-start the brewery.
Although Baldwin had been working on his business plan for three years, it wasn’t until being laid off from his information technology job last June that he decided to go all in: “That’s when I decided I could do it on my own, and I made it happen.”
Most of the couple’s investment went toward brewery equipment, property leasing costs, preparing the taproom and licensure to produce and distribute alcohol. But he said that Red Leg is already seeing a turnaround.
“I think they’ve been really welcomed,” Anderson said. “They’ve actually had to close because they ran out of beer.”
Due to low capacity and the desire for growth, Baldwin is preparing to install a larger production system that will boost output to 1,000 gallons a week rather than the current 150. He then plans to begin distributing his brews to restaurants, stores and bars across the Springs, at which point he said his business plan will be complete.
But the main goal is to “serve those who serve,” which Baldwin thinks will go along swimmingly in the state he calls a brewery mecca.
“We’re really excited that we could make all this happen here in Colorado Springs,” he said.