Most of us haven’t gotten much use out of our passports in the past 12 months. A collaboration by the Colorado Liquid Arts collective—comprised of the Colorado Brewers Guild, Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology (CAVE), Colorado Cider Guild, and Colorado Distillers Guild—is hoping to change that, though with a slightly different take on that familiar navy-blue book.
The Liquid Arts Passport, which is possible in part thanks to a marketing matching grant from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO), will include one-time discounts ranging from free glasses of wine and waived tasting fees to buy-one-get-one offers and discounted merchandise at breweries, cideries, wineries, and distilleries across Colorado. So far, more than 100 businesses have signed up to be a part of the program, which spurred the creators to divide the virtual passport into four different regions previously designated by the CTO: Denver & Cities of the Rockies, Mountains & Mesas, Pikes Peak Wonders, and Rockies Playground. Multiple price options are designed for long-term use by Colorado residents and short-term use by visitors to the state.
“This passport program gives people an incentive to try new things, go out and explore, and hit up a new cidery they haven’t been to before,” says Cassidee Shull, CAVE’s executive director. “It’ll be a really great way to taste your way through the state and all of these different businesses, whether it’s cider, wine, beer, or spirits.”
Program participants like Juliann Adams, owner and winemaker at Vines 79 Wine Barn, are excited about the passport’s potential to bring in new business after a “challenging” year. The two-and-a-half-year-old Palisade-based winery had finally opened a tasting room in December 2019—only to have the coronavirus pandemic drive state-wide closures in March. “It’s not in anybody’s business plan to shut down a couple of months after you open,” Adams says.
The small enterprise quickly pivoted to shipping more bottles and offering curbside pickup, and the team was relieved to finally reopen their tasting room last year on Memorial Day. Adams was ultimately pleased with how well they managed, but she laments their inability to host events like a grand opening or to sell snacks in her bar. The passport gives her a way to make up for lost time. “It’s a way for us as a new winery, a new business, to get our name out there with everybody else,” she says. “I didn’t want to miss out on that.”
The four craft beverage guilds brewed up the idea for the passport last year while teaming up (via regular Zoom meetings) to address the pandemic-related legislation affecting their industries and tasting rooms. Shawnee Adelson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, remembers how those meetings brought to light the fact that consumer drinking habits aren’t siloed. “People are not exclusively beer or exclusively wine or exclusively cider drinkers,” she says. “We wanted to make something that consumers [would be] excited about … that allows them to open up their palates and try different types of beverages.”
That cross-craft nature was precisely what motivated Carol Cochran, co-owner of Horse & Dragon Brewing in Fort Collins, to sign on. “Colorado is a fabulous place to come and visit for many reasons, and one of those is this amazing craft beverage culture that is springing up in every corner,” she says. “I don’t know that the passport is going to be the best way to promote ourselves individually, but I like the collective effort of it.”
Adams agrees: “It was a great idea to really take advantage of the fact that people don’t drink just one thing. I can’t wait for that first customer to walk in and say, ‘Hey, I’m part of the passport package.’ It’s going to be awesome.”
The Liquid Arts Passport is available here. Pricing ranges between $10–60, and proceeds will be split between the four guilds.