In Breckenridge, craft spirits producers show off their goods at annual festival
Each year when the leaves start changing and cold air begins whipping through the pines, craft distillers from around Colorado and beyond make the trek to Breckenridge to show off their goods at the annual Still on the Hill craft spirits festival.
Jordan Via, still monkey and barrel herder at Breckenridge Distillery, said the event has been getting bigger and bigger every year since its inception four years ago.
“There are 26 distilleries participating this year,” Via said. “Last year, there were 16. This will be our biggest festival ever; we’ve quadrupled our presale ticket numbers, and we’re anticipating 450 people or so this year.”
Mixing and mingling
Still on the Hill begins Friday, Oct. 4, with a Historic Saloon Tour, presented by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. Walk through historic downtown Breckenridge and learn about some of the first dance halls, brothels and saloons of the mining days.
Later in the evening, various bars throughout town will host distillers for the annual poker run. Each bar will have a selection of craft spirits and cocktails available for purchase, and the distillers will move from bar to bar handing out playing cards and talking with poker runners, Via said.
“I really like the poker run concept of going to the different places and tasting the different products,” said Andy Causey, president of Downslope Distilling. “It allows me to have direct contact with the people who are interested in the products and how they mix in the cocktails.”
Following an afternoon open house at the Breckenridge Distillery is the crown jewel of the festival, the Grand Tasting on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Riverwalk Center. Each distillery will be pouring samples of its spirits and mixing up cocktails to show their versatility.
Those attending the tasting event can walk around the auditorium, try the different offerings from the distilleries and meet the distillers and other company representatives. The festival allows people who have a passion for craft spirits to learn more about them straight from the producers and taste the difference between craft and mass-produced alcohol.
“It’s a great event, and it’s just getting better,” said Chris “Moose” Koons, sales representative for Peach Street Distillers in Palisade. “We’re really lucky in Colorado to have an informed, conscientious consumer, and I equate that to all the beer lovers out there. It keeps getting better and better. We have people who come who are really genuinely interested in craft distilling and what’s going on, and it’s a great movement.”
Grain to glass
Peach Street is Colorado’s oldest locally grown distiller and has been attending Still on the Hill since its inception four years ago. Moose said Peach Street would be pouring a variety of its products.
“We’ll have Colorado straight bourbon — Colorado’s first legally made bourbon — and we’re proud to make that from local ingredients found in Palisade,” he said. “We’ll also have our Goat Vodka, which is 100 percent grain to glass, and Jackalope Gin. We have 18 different products, and our distiller Davy Lindig just keeps getting better and better and our relationship with our growers in Palisade keeps getting better and better.”
Moose said he encourages people to stop by the Peach Street table to taste spirits that are grain to glass, meaning the distillery starts from scratch with the raw ingredients, which are distilled, proofed and bottled, rather than buying neutral grain spirits and blending or adding to them and bottling.
“It takes us 14 days to make 100 cases of vodka,” he cited as an example. “We start from scratch and we make it and ferment it and distill it. For us, it’s really important that we make grain to glass 100 percent of everything that comes out of our distillery. We aren’t as big, but every single thing that we make is small batch and hand made.
“If someone wants to come to a distillery that does 100 percent grain to glass and utilizes some fantastic ingredients grown on the Western Slope of Colorado, come give us a shot.”
Downslope has been attending Still on the Hill for a couple of years. Causey said the festival is a great way to connect with the market and make people aware of the craft spirits that are coming out of Colorado and surrounding states.
“We do a lot of festivals because it’s our primary way of reaching people and getting our product out there,” he said. “(Still on the Hill is) my very, very favorite. It’s neutral ground up there, and we get to hang out with the other distillers. In fact, the Distillers Guild scheduled its meeting around Still on the Hill because so many members will be there participating.”
Causey said Downslope will be sampling all 10 of its products and will have one or two specialty cocktails that it will be pouring, as well.
“Our No. 1 product, the one that’s most popular, is the Double Diamond Whiskey, and it’s a malted barley and rye whiskey that’s aged in three different barrels. Some of our other more popular products include an Old Tom gin, a historical style of gin made to what a gin would have tasted like in the 1700s.”
All of the aspects of the festival are attractive, Causey said.
“It’s a really receptive community, and a lot of people travel to this festival, as well,” he said. “I am so looking forward to it. … It’s great that the festival is happening to address the public with the amazing products that are coming from all corners of the state.”
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