Colorado may be known for its brews, both craft and big-name (those waterfalls in Coors’ marketing really are in Colorado), but our wine and spirits industries are hot on the brewers’ heels. Come taste our locally crafted beers, wines and cocktails to decide for yourself who takes top honors.
We have Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to thank for Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Company. He opened it in 1988.
- Colorado the top city in the United States for craft breweries per capita.
- The Great American Beer Festival, held every fall in Denver and the largest festival of its kind, gives patrons access to more than 2,200 beers from more than 450 breweries from across the country.
Five Colorado Craft Brews to Try:
1. Dale’s Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Brewing Co. (Lyons) Oskar Blues is a trailblazer for putting craft beer in cans; Dale’s Pale Ale is their flagship beer and has become an iconic Colorado brew.
2. Rail Yard Ale, Wynkoop Brewing Co. (Denver): A malty, slightly fruity amber, this is the beer that helped establish the brewery.
3. Valle Caliente, San Luis Valley Brewing Co (Alamosa): This chili-infused lager channels the Mexican flavors of this southern Colorado outpost.
4. 1554, New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins) This black ale has a silky feel and notes of coffee and dark chocolate.
5. Modus Hoperandi IPA, Ska Brewing Co. (Durango) With roots in southwest Colorado, Modus Hoperandi IPA is making its way to beer lovers in this state and beyond with a hoppy and pine-infused flavor with notes of grapefruit.
“People in this industry are so passionate, so motivated to bring the entire beer industry up a notch every single year. And the craft beer movement has spread from here — people are buying beer in Colorado and taking it back home to enjoy.“ —Steve Kurowski, marketing manager, Colorado Brewers Guild
- Colorado is home to two American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), a federally given title that helps vintners and consumers identify the source of a wine. Both are in the Grand Valley of Western Colorado near Grand Junction.
- Colorado Mountain Winefest, held every September in Palisade, is the state’s largest, drawing about 8,000 attendees each year for winery tours, seminars, competitions and demos from hotshot chefs.
Five Colorado Wines to Try:
1. 2009 Bookcliff Vineyards Petite Sirah (Boulder): “Winemaker John Garlich has tamed this famously chunky and rough-hewn red grape and given it a sense of refinement,” says master sommelier Wayne Belding.
2. 2009 Whitewater Hill Riesling (Grand Junction): “An off-dry white with pure apple and peachlike fruits and a subtly spicy character."
3. 2009 Plum Creek Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (Palisade)" “A luscious dessert wine with pure peach, apple and tropical fruit.”
4. 2008 Winery at the Holy Cross Abbey Syrah (Cañon City): “A powerful, deeply colored red with blackcurrant, black cherry and plum fruits enhanced by subtle smoke and spice tones.”
5. 2008 Two Rivers Chardonnay (Grand Junction): “This opulent white shows lovely apple and pineapple fruits enhanced by nutty, butterscotch and vanilla tones.”
“What’s great about experiencing our industry is finding out what Colorado tastes like and seeking the unique personality of the wines created in these locations, as well as the personalities of the people shaping the flavors of the wine.” —Doug Caskey, executive director, Colorado Wine Industry Development Board
- Colorado has doubled; at 20 (and growing!) the third-highest in the country.
- More distilleries are cropping up all the time. Zebra Vodka, started by two women who fled the insurance industry, is one of the more recent newbies.
Five Colorado Cocktails to Try:
1. The Diamondback, Salt Bistro (Boulder): Roundhouse Imperial gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white and Leopold Bros Absinthe Verte.
2. Colorado Sidecar, Ships Tavern (Denver): Stranahan’s whiskey, Grand Marnier, simple syrup and lime juice.
3. Cannes Do, The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin (Crested Butte): Vodka, cantaloupe, honeydew, cucumber and yellow Chartreuse.
4. Blackberry Smash, Root Down (Denver): Leopold Bros blackberry whiskey, Grand Marnier, lemon and mint.
5. Grassy Knoll, Bitter Bar (Boulder): Caprock gin, verjus, white vermouth, sauvignon blanc and celery bitters.
“The truly handcrafted, all-natural aspect rolls over into all the Colorado distilleries. They locally source everything they possibly can, from the juniper berries to the herbs. It’s almost as cool now to do a tour of a distillery as a microbrewery. The industry is growing so quick, even I can’t stay on top of it!” —Apryl Boyce, president, Diamond Distributors
Photos: Copyright flickr/MacKinnon Photography, Matt Inden/Miles, Matt Inden/Miles