1. Collaboration Products

Centennial State brewers cite the cooperative nature of our artisan beer scene, and that same spirit extends to, well, spirits. Wood’s High Mountain Distillery crafts the grape spirit that goes into Vino Salida’s award-winning red vermouth, for example, while Leopold Bros.’ spent barrels go to New Belgium Brewing Company, Upslope Brewing Company, and Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project for aging their specialty brews.

Courtesy of Colorado Malting Company

2. Local Grains

With distillers increasingly sourcing local grains, Colorado farmers are seeing the benefits. “The craft distilling industry has been our biggest by-volume customer, by far,” says Jason Cody of Alamosa’s Colorado Malting Company, a fourth-generation farm and malt house.

Courtesy of J&L Distilling

3. Esoteric Liqueurs & Spirits

Forget whiskey and vodka—more obscure liqueurs and spirits are finding their ways onto consumers’ bar carts. Take Boulder’s J&L Distilling Company’s sugarcane-based Fyr liqueur, a Fireball-esque spiced spirit. Or Vapor Distillery’s barrel-aged gin-whiskey love child, Boulder Ginskey. Or Colorado Springs’ Lee Spirits Company’s crème de rose. Or Longmont’s Dry Land Distillers’ forthcoming innovative play on mezcal that uses charred prickly pear fruit. Or…you get the idea.

Canned cocktails from WheelHouse Canning Co., which will change its name to Beyond the Bar later this year. Photo courtesy of WheelHouse Canning Co.

4. Canned Cocktails

Move over, canned wine; it’s cocktails’ turn. This past August, former Mercantile Dining & Provision bartender Quinton Bennett launched WheelHouse Canning Co., offering sips like black tea with thyme, lemonade, and vodka. Later this year, Longmont’s Spirits by Oskar Blues Distillery will start producing its own hooch for a new canned cocktail line. And Moose Koons, a partner at Rocky Mountain Soda Co. and Peach Street Distillers, is considering combining the wares of the two businesses to create canned concoctions.

Courtesy of Kevin Galaba

5. Single Malt Whiskey

Bourbon gets a lot of love stateside. But American single malt whiskey is the brown liquor you might want to get excited about. The relatively new category deviates from Scotch in that it’s not from Scotland (obviously) and it doesn’t necessarily include smoky peat notes. Denver’s Stranahan’s Distillery and Buena Vista’s Deerhammer Distilling Company have both built their brands on the stuff, and Golden Moon Distillery released its own version in 2016.

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.