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Denver Distilleries – A Short History of Spirits in Colorado

Colorado is on the forefront of the craft distillery movement. Throughout the state, locals are creating some of the finest spirits in the country with the adopted grain-to-glass methods. There are a variety of distilleries in and around the Denver area producing craft Colorado whiskeys and gin.

Colorado has a diverse set of micro-climates and terrain, bringing about rich soils and raw ingredients for the next new cocktail. This diversity allows farmers to grow grain for spirits and beer, grapes for wine, and other fruits for brandies and liqueurs. Colorado’s cool nights and warm days are ideal for the aging process, helping to infuse flavors from aging barrels to spirits.

Where Did Colorado Distilleries Start?

When Colorado banned alcohol in 1916, four years prior to the rest of the nation’s failed attempt at Prohibition, it took some years to recover the industry. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the first to re-up the beverage industry was Coors brewery in Golden. The spirits industry experienced a slower start.

In 1998, a volunteer firefighter by the name of Jess Graber helped put out a blaze on George Stranahans’s Flying Dog Brewery property. The two discovered a shared passion for good whiskey and a few years later, Colorado’s first distillery was born. By 2000, six distillers had earned their licenses.

What Does it Mean to be “Colorado-Made?”

Colorado-made refers to a product being sourced and produced in Colorado. Most Denver and Colorado distilleries are all Colorado-made, meaning everything in your glass comes from the great state of Colorado.

The same lenient liquor laws that allow breweries to self-distribute apply to distillers too, enabling them to start small and grow slowly by selling directly to liquor stores, restaurants, and walk-in customers. Like all locally crafted products, Colorado distilleries have to compete with large, mass standard liquor producers. As craft distillers gain momentum and make their mark on the market, expect to see more emerging spirits from towns across Colorado both large and small.

Why Choose Local Distilleries?

Choosing a local distillery can be beneficial for more reasons than crafting the perfect cocktail. Colorado distilleries, whether producing whiskey or gin, are a passionate group of enthusiasts who further emphasize the use of the local market. Utilizing the grain-to-glass or farm-to-bar mentality and an emphasis on waste-not production ensures product quality and sustainability.

Many Colorado distillers are rooted in tradition, such as Deviation Distilling located in the heart of Denver. Producing small batch Colorado whiskey and gin, Deviation pushes the limits on what a truly artisan craft spirit can be. With the use of Colorado grown grain, each mash bill created crafts the two varieties of spirits.

Using a unique technique based on custom-built equipment, each batch of whiskey is aged in charred oak casks, while the gin is distilled with a sophisticated blend of botanicals to complement the depth of locally sourced grains. In addition, our Mountain Herb gin in particular is entirely made out of locally sourced ingredients, with the grains and 99% of the botanicals directly stemming from Colorado.

Head to your local liquor store to try Deviation’s unique spirits, including a Citrus Rose, Mountain Herb, or Spice Trade Gin. You can also head directly to the distillery’s cocktail lounge, located at 900 W 1stAve #150, Denver Colorado, 80223.

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