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Colorado’s craft breweries and distilleries have always had a harmonious relationship, and in recent years, beers aged in up-cycled liquor barrels have been on the rise. Cast in point: WeldWerks Brewing’s highly sought-after Single Barrel Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche, which is aged in Breckenridge Distillery bourbon barrels. Now, some Colorado brewers are taking that relationship a step further, creating beers inspired by the flavor profiles of their favorite spirits and cocktails. Here are three to try.
For fans of the Sazerac—a classic New Orleans cocktail made with whiskey (or cognac), a hint of citrus, a dash of sweetness, and a wash of licorice-forward absinthe—Upslope’s latest Lee Hill Series release will hit the spot. This flavor bomb is aged in both Leopold Bros. Absinthe and Rye Whiskey barrels for a combined nine months. It’s finished with a touch of orange blossom honey, which balances out the strong boozy and botanical notes picked up during the aging process. With 10.8 percent ABV, this beer is definitely a slow sipper, and, according to Upslope’s head brewer, Sam Scruby, it’s the perfect candidate for aging in your own beer cellar. “Like its 16 predecessors, Lee Hill Volume 17 is very unique,” he says, “and we hope for it to be a cellar keepsake for Upslope fans and craft beer lovers everywhere.” Upslope’s Sazerac Style Rye Ale is available on draft and in 19.2-ounce cans at both of the brewery’s Boulder taprooms…while supplies last.
Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing Company and Kentucky’s Knob Creek have more than 50 combined years of booze-making between them. That expertise shines through in their recently released collaboration, the Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Ale. The two brands pioneered new technology to create the 9 percent ABV sipper: Rather than letting the brew age in a barrel, they used a bespoke vessel to steep Knob Creek bourbon-soaked oak spirals and char from used barrels in New Belgium’s rye base ale. The resulting brew picked up all of the bourbon’s notes of caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak. “We could have simply barrel-aged some ale, or rested beer on barrel staves, but that wouldn’t have given us the amazing freshness and flavor,” said Ross Koenigs, Research and Development Brewer at New Belgium. “Our team likes to say that we didn’t just develop a custom extraction technology, but rather, a beer-flavoring ‘missile.’” The limited release Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Ale is available at New Belgium accounts nationwide, in both 12-ounce bottles and on draft.
It’s a scientific fact: Moscow mules are delicious and refreshing regardless of the season. The brewers at Durango-based Ska Brewing Company love the drink’s ginger and lime flavors so much, in fact, that they created the MoSka Mule, an easy-drinking, cocktail-inspired ale in a can. “Forget all the garnishes, they’re already in the can,” says Ska founder Dave Thibodeau of the zesty brew, which was created to honor the brewery’s 23rd anniversary. The MoSka Mule is slightly acidic, and at just 6 percent ABV, it’s sure to appeal to cocktail and craft beer aficionados alike. Find the MoSka Mule at Ska retail and restaurant accounts in Colorado and 11 other lucky states.