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Colorado is trying for a beverage trifecta: We’re already a craft-brewing haven and the wines produced here continue to garner national recognition. An emerging craft distilling industry (look out California, Oregon, and Washington) rounds out the achievement. “You’re in an area where consumers want more local products,” explains JoAnne Carilli-Stevenson, executive director of the Colorado Distillers Guild. “And there’s legislative support for local product too, so it’s easier for the consumer to gain access.”
Unlike microbreweries, which are heavily concentrated along the Front Range, Colorado’s distillers are more widely dispersed. To sample the state’s best spirits, venture off on a five-day, 1,020-mile road trip through eight cities and 14 distilleries. The route (and corresponding infographic) is the brainchild of Josh Mishell, chief idea guy for Fermentable Sugar, a marketing and design firm that works with Denver’s Rackhouse Pub.
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From Denver, the statewide loop travels south to Colorado Springs, then west to Buena Vista, Crested Butte, and Telluride, before circling back through Palisade and the greater Boulder and Fort Collins areas. In total, that’s 20 hours of driving spread across five days. “I’m not even sure it can all be done at once,” Mishell cautions. “That’s a lot of alcohol.” He and Rackhouse Pub owner, Chris Rippe, are planning to embark on a watered-down version of the road trip themselves as early as November, hitting seven distilleries (and two breweries) in five days.
To embark on your own spirits loop, grab a designated driver and start with these three spots:
Peach Street Distillers: Palisade-based Peach Street Distillers debuted a bourbon in 2008 that used Olathe sweet corn. It continues to make the light, aromatic drink in small batches—about 200 bottles at a time. (For comparison, major producers might turn out 1,400 barrels each day.) Local fruits are also used to make gin and brandy in small doses.
Roundhouse Spirits: Based in Boulder, Roundhouse produces the Imperial Barrel Aged Gin, which will appeal to whiskey drinkers. It is aged in oak casks for at least six months, revealing an amber color and smooth, yet complex flavor.
Dancing Pines: Utilizing an artisan-hammered copper still, Loveland-based Dancing Pines produces a variety of spirits (gin, bourbon, and rum). Dancing Pines also offers liqueurs with flavors like espresso, cherry tart, and chai, which won a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock