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Posted: April 01, 2012

Made in Colorado: Craft beer and spirits

Mike Cote

Ellie’s Brown Ale
Avery Brewing


Step inside Avery Tap Room and you feel like you’re part of the in-crowd as twentysomethings wash down pulled pork sliders with Hog Heaven Barleywine-style Ale or Philly cheesesteak sandwiches with New World Porter. Makes you forget it’s a bit hard to find this ever-crowded Boulder oasis tucked inside an industrial park.

But the iconic "A" that sits at street level at 5763 Arapahoe Ave. is all the craft brewer needs to lure customers. Since 1993, the Avery family has been creating inspired interpretations of Old World brewing traditions.

Avery complements its year-round regulars – Ellie’s Brown Ale, India Pale Ale, White Rascal Belgian White Ale, Out of Bounds Stout and Joe’s Premium American Pilsner – with seasonal limited editions such as Old Jubilation Ale. "Our winter strong ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts," the brewers say on their website.

Not the kind of brew to be pounded down but one to be savored – perhaps with a tap room burger and sweet potato tots.

Straight Bourbon Whiskey Colorado Gold Distillery


After 46 years in the construction industry, Tom Cooper decided he needed to spend his work days doing something that was
easier on his body. His chose to make whiskey.

"My family all came from Arkansas and Missouri years ago so they were all familiar with whiskeys. I just picked it up," says Cooper, 64, who with his wife, Pam, founded Colorado Gold Distillery in Cedaredge in 2007. "My favorite whiskey was bourbon, and my favorite was Maker’s Mark. I tried to make the product as good as or better than Maker’s Mark."

The couple’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey earned a fourth place distinction by the American Distilling Institute in 2010. They also make corn whiskey, agave spirits, gin and vodka.

The Coopers buy their malted barley from Colorado Malting in Alamosa, corn from Grand Valley Hybrids, and grain and wheat from farms in Eckert and Olathe respectively. And Cedaredge has great water.

"I think that and the process I use in making my spirits make them extremely smooth," Tom Cooper says.

CapRock Organic Gin
Peak Spirits


Lance and Anna Hansen founded Jack Rabbit Hill Farm about 12 years ago in the North Fork Valley to grow grapes. In 2005, the California transplants decided to branch out and founded Peak Spirits, a distillery that keeps its focus on the farming connection, a concept commonly practiced in Austria and Germany.

"We look at our products as agricultural products. We look for quality in the way stuff is grown," Lance Hansen says.

The Hansens produce CapRock Organic Vodka with their estate grapes, which they are also among the ingredients for their brandy and grappas. The couple source peaches, pears, cherries and apples from other local farms in the North Fork Valley.

Peak Spirits is distributed in eight states and Washington, D.C., and several countries in Europe.

"It’s great that people are starting to wake up to this whole artisan food movement, and it’s starting to spill over into the spirits and beer category," says Hansen, 51, who notes that the concept already has been adopted by vintners.

10 More

Foreign Style Stout

Upslope Brewing
Co., Boulder


Trinity Absinthe Overland Distillery, Loveland

Diamond Whiskey
, Downslope Distilling, Centennial

Strange Pale Ale Strange Brewing Co., Denver

Colorado Straight Bourbon

Peach Street Distillers, Palisade

Manana Amber Lager Del Norte Brewing Co., Denver

Laughing Lab
Scottish Ale

Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs

Milk Stout Nitro

Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont

Tread Lightly Ale
New Planet Gluten Free Beer, Boulder

agave wheat

Breckenridge Brewery

Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Nice list, Mike. I'm a huge fan of local craft beers. What amazes me is how well Colorado is known for its beer industry, yet there's little if any money available to help budding craft beer entrepreneurs get started. Where does one go to find the seed capital in CO for this industry? Or must they all go to the coasts where the money is? It would be great if Colorado had a financial infrastructure that supported craft brewers beyond family & friends. But with the typical and tiny $10K or $50K initial and final investments, the industry is destined to stay as a mom and pop industry. When instead, this state could be building dozens of new $20M real businesses with national exposure. And maybe they'd stay here and keep the jobs here. But, alas, we've seen companies like Mike's Hard Lemonade (2005) move out of the state and take their jobs with them... because that's where the money is. By Marty Koenig on 2012 04 01
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