Beer, wine and the hard stuff from Colorado ingredients
It is no secret Colorado is one of the top craft beer producing states in the nation with 160 breweries and counting, award-winning craft distilleries across the state and unique wines.. While Colorado is known for its après adventure libations, many don’t realize the secret ingredients are local ingredients from Colorado farms and often times from the beverage producers’ own farms and gardens. They call it “seed to table,” a phrase I like. The mammoth Coors brewery has for years boasted of using pure Rocky Mountain spring water, and that’s a key ingredient to other adult beverages too. The Colorado Tourism Board has assembled a sampling of some of Colorado’s top distilleries, breweries and wineries offering seed to table beverages, most with tasting rooms and tours.
- Deerhammer Distilling Company in Buena Vista is an award winning micro-distillery specializing in premium small batch whiskey. Deerhammer sources their grain from the sort-of nearby San Luis Valley. Their Buena Vista Brandy is made in partnership with vineyards on Colorado’s Western Slope, and the barrel-aged spiced apple liqueur to be released this fall was made from 900 pounds of hand-cut apples from Cedaredge. They also work with some of the smaller farmers in the Buena Vista area to trade spent grain as animal feed for various cocktail ingredients such as mint, pickled green beans, beets and even bacon.
- Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, the heart of Colorado’s fruit belt. It is the first Colorado distillery that I became aware of. In fact, it was the state’s first artisanal distillery and was named the American Distilling Institute’s 2012 “Distillery of The Year.” It utilizes was named the American Distilling Institute’s 2012 “Distillery of The Year.” various fruits from a stone’s throw away from their distillery. Last year, it utilized local corn, sage and more than 90,000 pounds of over-ripened Palisade peaches and pears. Peach Street also recently acquired a farm to begin growing their own produce for their spirits.
- Peak Spirits Farm Distillery at the USDA-certified organic and Demeter-certified Biodynamic Jack Rabbit Hill Farm creates handcrafted CapRock gin, vodka and brandies as well as Jack Rabbit Hill wines. Each product is made with certified organic fruit grown at Jack Rabbit Hill in the North Fork Valley and nearby Gunnison River Farms and Ela Family Farms, and cut back with naturally pure, soft water from the CapRock formation on Grand Mesa. Peak Spirits is the recipient of several national awards including a James Beard Foundation Nomination for Outstanding Beer Wine & Spirits Professional and Good Food Awards for both CapRock Gin and Vodka.
- Spring44 Distilling in Loveland utilizes Colorado water from its own artesian spring well in its spirits. Spring44’s Honey Vodka includes Colorado honey and its Old Tom Gin includes locally grown rosemary and coriander. The distillery is also currently developing bourbon utilizing local grains.
- The new Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt grow sits own alpine potatoes at Scanlan Family Farm in Woody Creek for their potato vodkas that are completely grown, distilled and bottled in the Roaring Fork Valley. It will also be releasing three specialty spirits including gin, apple brandy and pear Eau de Vie made from pears and apples from local farms, Colorado rye and wheat, mountain spring water and Colorado-sourced barley malted by Coors.
- Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins is committed to serving the communities in which they distribute by sourcing local raw materials. Its Amuste Imperial Porter utilizes Tempranillo grapes from Colorado’s Western Slope; Tree Shaker Imperial IPA includes 3,000 pounds of Colorado peaches from Big B’s/Delicious Orchards in Paonia; FRIEK includes cherries and raspberries from Colorado’s Western Slope and Front Range and Mountain Standard Double Black IPA features hops hand-picked by Odell’s brewers from Western Slope farms.
- Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont and elsewhere is a funky little brewpub that started the craft-beer-in-a-can craze ten years ago with Dale’s Pale Ale. Oskar Blues has its own Hops & Heifers Farm with a two-acre hops field in addition to growing its own vegetables, Black Angus Cattle and Berkshire Pigs to supply their restaurants. They also use spent grain from the brewing process to supplement feed for the animals, and they host beer dinners at their farm.
- Ska Brewing Company’s signature True Blonde and True Blonde Dubbel include local honey from Durango’s own Honeyville. It also brews Hoperation Ivy, a wet-hop IPA that coincides with the Colorado hop harvest each August. Hoperation Ivy is made entirely with ingredients sourced in Colorado including organic hops from Leroux Creek Farms in Hotchkiss, and malt from the Colorado Malting Co. in Alamosa.
- Twisted Pine Brewing Company in Boulder has also utilized local resources as often as possible. Last year, the brewery started the Farm to Foam series, using only ingredients sourced in state. The initial beer in the series, Roots Revival, introduced carrots grown just north of Boulder into an American-style Pale Ale. The latest offering from the series is the Cucumber Cream Ale utilizing Crystal hops from Olathe and fresh English cucumbers from the 2 R’s Farm in Platteville.
- Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) is Colorado’s first brewpub celebrating its 25th year of pioneering, small-batch liquid art. The latest small-batch canned good is Belgorado, a Belgian-style IPA made with Colorado-grown malts and hops. The malted barley is grown and malted by Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. The whole-leaf and pelletized hops come from Misty Mountain Hop Farm in Olathe. Wynkoop famously launched founder John Hickenlooper into a political career, first as mayor of Denver and now as governor of Colorado.
- Augustina’s Winery in Boulder is a one-woman operation creating novel and unexpected blends from unusual grapes sourced from Colorado farms. The Venus de Vino Table Wine is made from Boulder’s Leistikow Farms Marechal Foch grapes. Augustina’s Winery makes sure that each and every bottle has its own personality and purpose including wines that go with backpacking adventures, mystery novels and gingersnaps.
- Canyon Wind Cellars in Palisade is a family-owned, estate winery that does everything on-property from growing the grapes through winemaking and bottling. The award-winning, signature wines utilize sustainable and low-intervention winemaking practices including a computer controlled drip watering system, a complete weather and soil moisture monitoring system and no use of herbicides.
- Sutcliffe Vineyards‘ 12 acres nestled at the foot of the Sleeping Ute Mountain in Southwestern Colorado are planted with Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petit Verdot .The estate and 22 additional sustainably and responsibly farmed acres are overseen by three farmers who meticulously farm, harvest and vinify. Eschewing the adding of tannins, color enhancers or acid, they allow the wines to reflect the grapes.
- Terror Creek Winery in Paonia is reputedly the highest commercially operating vineyard and winery in the Northern Hemisphere. It cultivates some of the original grapes planted on the Western Slope from the Four Corners Research Project in the mid-1970s. Winery owner Joan Mathewson trained in winemaking in Switzerland and uses many of the traditional central European methods for trellising and training her vines.
- The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City began as an extension of the next-door Benedictine Abbey and exists independently today. It buys some of its fruit from the nearby state penitentiary’s vineyard and orchard management rehab program, but it also created Wild Canyon Harvest from the grapes picked by area residents from backyard vines and growing wild, which are remnants of the thriving grape growing and winemaking at the end of the 19th century. Now many of those original, resilient vines are still growing in backyards and open space.