SubscribeAvailable Now
Bar Helix’s Kendra Anderson. Photo by Lucy Beaugard

6 Women Defining Denver’s Beverage Scene

Meet the fierce females bringing creativity and innovation to everything from local kombucha to beer to bourbon.

|

Denverites like to drink, and Colorado’s thriving craft beerwine, spirits, and even kombucha scenes make it easy to do so very, very well. Who’s behind all the liquid innovation? Oftentimes, it’s a brilliant woman. Here are just a few of the powerful females influencing what, where, and how we drink.

The Woman Transforming the Tea Industry
Linda Appel Lipsius, co-founder/CEO of Teatulia Organic Teas

Linda Appel Lipsius

Linda Appel Lipsius learned the entrepreneurial hustle by watching her father, the founder of Orange Glo cleaning solution. “I grew up at the Colorado State Fair and the Home and Garden Show and the Stock Show because [my father] was always pitching things, from vitamins to carpet sweepers,” Lipsius says. “It was always healthy and environmental. I don’t think I realized that at the time.”

Advertisement

Now, as the CEO and co-founder of Teatulia Organic Teas, Lipsius gets to flex her own eco-centric skills. The company, which she founded with a Bangladeshi friend, encompasses a fair-wage, organic tea garden in northern Bangladesh, a tea bar in Denver, and a growing retail presence. But most of all, Lipsius is proud that Teatulia’s garden provides employment to women abroad while offering a healthy product to her domestic customers.

“Organic is our everything,” Lipsius says. “In a conventional garden, [tea is] sprayed with pesticides twice during their growing cycle, whether they need it or not. When tea is processed, the leaves are plucked, spread out to dry, rolled, roasted, or steamed… and then you steep them in your cup. Those pesticides haven’t gone anywhere.”

Lipsius wants Denverites to rethink where we drink tea, too: Instead of sipping a cup on the couch, “[tea] ties in with our outdoor lifestyle,” she says. “We even have an energy tea that uses eleuthero root (Siberian ginseng), which helps your body adapt to exertion. It was developed by an Everest climber. With energy teas, you put them in your water bottle or put four in your Camelback when you go on a run. Also, there are studies that show that black tea is a good [post-workout] recovery aid.”

Look for Teatulia’s products—including newly released canned tea sodas—at Rocky Mountain Whole Foods Market locations and local Tokyo Joe’s, Garbanzo, Cho77, and Biju’s Little Curry Shop restaurants.

2900 Zuni St., 303-573-0710

Advertisement

The Woman Remaking Denver’s Bar Scene
Kendra Anderson, owner of Bar Helix

Kendra Anderson

Kendra Anderson has worn many hats—corporate office employee, chef, sommelier—but none have been as difficult, or as rewarding, as bar owner. Despite her deep love for wine, Bar Helix, which she opened in RiNo in 2017, quickly gained a reputation as one of Denver’s best cocktail bars.

“The earliest incarnation of the business plan was for a legit wine bar,” Anderson says. “But as I would be pitching the idea, you could see people’s faces change. I was having so many conversations where I found myself explaining to people that my wine bar wasn’t going to be the typical wine bar. Then I said I’m going to be smarter about this. Let me just call it a bar—that has 25 wines by the glass.”

While Anderson has indeed created a strong wine list, it’s often overshadowed by the 12-variation Negroni program she devised with bar manager Victoria Errio.

“My whole obsession with the Negroni is real,” Anderson says. “I really put a lot of my reputation on it. It makes me so happy that we took an unknown and made it approachable for people.” Anderson reports that Bar Helix made about 3,000 Negronis during its first year in business, and she is continuing the popular Negroni punch card program launched in December.

3440 Larimer St., Denver, 720-449-8587

Advertisement

The Woman Brewing Opportunities for Women
Melissa Bosak, chapter lead of the Pink Boots Society Denver

Melissa Bosak

When Melissa Bosak joined the Pink Boots Society (PBS), an organization for women in the brewing industry, the only existing Colorado chapter was based in Fort Collins. So, in 2017, Bosak—along with brewers Emilie Stewart of Blue Moon Brewing Company and Erin Cox (formerly of Great Divide Brewing Company)—formed a Denver chapter. In just two years, they’ve grown its membership from 10 women to more than 100.

Pennsylvania-born Bosak credits the collaborative nature of the PBS for helping propel her career from lab manager and director of operations at Crazy Mountain Brewery to line lead in packaging at MillerCoors. “It’s a great networking opportunity to meet other women in the area, in addition to exciting educational opportunities through our chapter meetings and scholarships,” Bosak says.

For International Women’s Day, PBS Denver is holding its second-annual Collaboration Brew Day, in which members brew a special beer together. In April, when the brew is ready to pour, PBS will post a list of breweries where it will be available; 100 percent of the sales from those pints will go back to PBS Denver. Last year, the organization’s Equal Hopportunity Pineapple IPA raised over $18,000—so much money, in fact, that the event caught the attention of national leaders of PBS.

Bosak and her compatriots ended up drafting a how-to packet for other PBS chapters across the country so they could host their own brew days. Bosak is hopeful that this year’s collaboration beer, a pomegranate-key lime IPA, will raise even more.

The funds go to the worthy cause of furthering women’s involvement in the craft beer scene. (A 2014 Auburn University study found that women account for only 29 percent of brewery workers in the U.S.) From meetings and seminars to scholarships, training programs, and conferences, Bosak and PBS Denver are at the forefront of bringing more equality to craft beer.

Advertisement

The Woman Putting Colorado Craft Spirits on the Map
Dawn Richardson, owner, operator, and manager of Rising Sun Distillery

Dawn Richardson

Two and half years ago, Dawn Richardson, the owner, operator, and manager of Rising Sun Distillery in Denver, read an article about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It sparked an idea.

“I approached P.T. Woods (of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and former president of the Colorado Distillers Guild),” she says. “I said, ‘You know, [Kentucky is] making over a billion dollars a year in tourist revenue and we have a bigger variety of spirits and Colorado’s a bigger tourist draw. Why don’t we have one?’”

Richardson, the only female distillery operator within Denver’s city limits, was told that a trail had been discussed, but no one wanted to do the work. So she volunteered.

“I put together a committee,” she says, “and luckily Stranahan’s was on that and they gave us a bit seed money. Then we contacted the [Colorado] Department of Tourism and they said there was a grant we could apply for because they had done a hot springs loop the year before. I said ‘I can do this’ because I had written grants before. We got it!”

The Colorado Spirits Trail sprang to life last February with Richardson as its ambassador. The trail is a printed map that participants can use to receive stamps, like a passport, as they visit 50 different distilleries across the state. Those who visit at least 10 distilleries receive a t-shirt. And the first 24 people to visit every distillery in 2018 received a signed bottle from each participating spirits producer. Richardson says it was almost too successful.

Advertisement

“We had almost 40 people finish the trail,” she says. “We said we would give bottles to the first 24 finishers, and that’s two 12-bottle cases. They all finished so quickly and we didn’t anticipate that happening so early.” She also says that all 500 of the t-shirts they printed for 2018 are gone, which works out to 5,000 unique Colorado distillery visits. The 2019 map, which is in the works now, will include 61 distilleries, including outlier Santa Fe Spirits in New Mexico.

“The one thing people who finished [the trail] said is they almost always got to meet owners and distillers. Having a connection with the people actually making the products was exciting for them. I think also the opportunity to explore the state. A lot of people who did the trail were from here and they were going to places they’ve never been before.”

1330 Zuni St., Unit J, Denver, 303-534-1788

The Woman Making Kombucha Actually Taste Good
Jenni Lyons, co-owner/founder of Happy Leaf Kombucha

Jenni Lyons

While kombucha has been trendy for more than a minute, the fermented, probiotic beverage was initially popular as a health elixir—not something you’d drink because you liked the taste.

“That’s what drew me to start making it,” says Jenni Lyons, founder and co-owner of Denver’s Happy Leaf Kombucha. “A lot of what was on the shelf was unbalanced. [Kombucha] should be tart, but not vinegary. I remember when I first started drinking it, everybody chugged it because it was not good.”

Advertisement

Zeroing in on good taste led Lyons and her partner Mike Burns to open a large-scale production facility in Lakewood after their original RiNo location was sold and demolished. Using Teatulia’s teas as the base, Happy Leaf’s tangy, fruit- and herb-infused ‘buchas are now found all over Colorado, from retail shelves to brewery taps.

The Happy Leaf tap room in Edgewater, just a few blocks east of Sloan’s Lake, is where guests can taste new flavors and pick up growlers to go. “Cranberry lavender is the most popular flavor by far,” she says. “It’s very approachable and easy-drinking. [And in the tap room], we make random kegs for fun that we only serve here; we made a chile-grapefruit [version] with habaneros in it.”

As Happy Leaf’s production continues to grow and more folks embrace the ‘buch, Lyons is optimistic about her business’ future. “It’s taking over the beverage industry as an everyday beverage.”

Happy Leaf can be found at Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Market, and Whole Foods.
Edgewater Tap Room, 5700 West 25th Ave., Edgewater, 720-708-4954

The Woman Changing the Way Artful Cocktails Are Made
Alexis Osborne, bar manager of Smōk

Alexis Osborne

Alexis Osborne may be thousands of miles from her birthplace in Toledo, Ohio, but she’s never far from her artistic upbringing. “My mom worked in art museums, so I grew up in museums,” she says. “I grew up drawing and painting.” After graduating high school at 17, she started modeling in Europe, eventually moving to New York City where she began bartending between modeling gigs. After 15 years behind the bar in the Big Apple, she relocated to Denver.

Advertisement

After a stint at Highland Tap and Burger, she landed at Acorn, where she worked under beverage director Bryan Dayton and former director of operations Alexandra Flowers. “They let me be creative,” Osborne says. “I feel like they empowered me to experiment and go outside my comfort zone.”

“Before moving here I stopped drawing and painting,” she says. “Then something awakened inside of me. Just watching everyone’s excitement about the cocktail scene here made me realize I do love this industry.” Today, Osborne credits her love of fashion and art for shaping the way she creates cocktails.

“I don’t start creating a cocktail by choosing the spirit,” she says. “It’ll be by color or smell. I would create visually from an ingredient and build what color palate or flavor profile I wanted. Then I would pick the spirit. I’m definitely a visual person.”

While at Acorn, then-sous-chef William Espiricueta noticed her creativity and invited her to run the bar program at his new Source Hotel & Market Hall barbecue restaurant, Smōk.

“This is the first official gig where [the drink menu is] my baby,” she says of Smōk. Osborne’s inventive approach is on full display via her beautifully balanced frozen cocktails, which work brilliantly with Espiricueta’s smoky fare.

Advertisement

Smōk, The Source Hotel & Market Hall, 3330 Brighton Blvd., 720-230-0792

Winter Adventures

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up