On December 9th, the Dancing Pines Distillery hosted the first annual Liquid Arts Festival at the Bonnell Building in Loveland to invite people to discover a few local Colorado distilleries. Although it is the event’s debut year, the Fest opened to a sold out crowd.
A few members of the Go Colorado crew and I waited in the chilly evening for the doors to open at about 5:30pm. Having had dinner across the street at the Pour House–a bar and grill featuring live music–I was ready to get back inside to experience some local craft spirits.
A long, somewhat narrow room greeted us as we entered the Bonnell Building, and as it was already getting crowded, I wondered whether there would be room enough for all the ticket holders! The next thing I noticed was not the crowd, but the décor. The space was surrounded by red brick walls, warm low lighting, and local artwork, making it the perfect location, I thought, to host a craft distillery event. The atmosphere complemented the cozy, local, artistic feel of the event.
Weaving through the throng of eager spirits enthusiasts, there was no need for winter coats. Fortunately, there was a coat rack near the entrance. The next problem we faced was that there were so many tables to choose from, we had trouble deciding where to start! One of the first tables we reached was the MouCo Cheese Company from Fort Collins, offering a spread of tasty hors d’oeuvres to event-goers.
The next stop on the trip around the room was the Breckenridge Distillery. Definitely one of the popular tables at the event–as they were mixing cocktails with their spirits–I tried their world-renowned bourbon first.
Overall, I am a pretty picky person when it comes to flavor, and as a rule, I prefer whisky to bourbon, but I tried everything at the Fest with a completely open mind. I was delightfully surprised at how much I enjoyed the bourbon, neat without anything else to cover up the flavor.
Though I moved on with my taster-sized glass of bourbon at the time, I later came back to try one of their cocktails. This one in particular was unexpected, but delicious—it was a vodka-based drink that had fresh cilantro crushed into the mix, and then added to it for garnish. We thought it might have been inspired by the mint julep or mojito, but wherever the idea came from, it was a wonderful, if a little untraditional, blend.
On the other side of the entrance was the group from Downslope Distilling. Aside from their variety of spirits, which included their extensive selection of rum and vodka, they were nearest to the ice sculptures, and they had some of their merchandise on display, so they were a pretty popular table as well. They had a unique set of barrels with their logo on them set out on the table, and flasks of all shapes and sizes.
After making our way to the back of the room, I was able to see just how much there was to the Fest. A musician with a guitar sang familiar songs upon the stairway landing, which made an excellent makeshift stage in a room where there was none. There were other hors d’oeuvres standing in place for hungry visitors, and even a Christmas tree, fully lit, behind the tables.
Next to the staircase, a.k.a. “the stage,” was the Overland Distillery. This group in particular drew a lot of attention because they had the uncommon option of offering absinthe to visitors. As absinthe is a French spirit that was once illegal in the US, I think many people were surprised to find it available at the Fest. It was a big hit among people who were familiar with its distinct flavor and green color, as well as curious tasters who appreciated the opportunity to try something new.
At the far end of the room was the Peach Street Distillers’ table. This Palisade-based distillery shared a little cocktail mixture with their gin and lime, their take on the Moscow Mule. Having renamed it the “Mile High Mule,” the drink was not only distinctive, but very flavorful. The characteristic juniper flavor was prominent, but it wasn’t so overwhelming that you couldn’t enjoy the tart of the lime as well.
We wandered back toward the middle of the room, and found an opening at the Syntax Spirits table. This distillery, located in Greeley, was offering their vodka, and plenty of it. The star of the group is their Class V vodka, which was my favorite by far. It was surprisingly smooth and easy to drink, and I can now understand why people would want to sip it without any mixes or juice added. I had always thought of vodka as something that needed a mixer to counteract the strong smell and taste of alcohol, but I stand corrected. This vodka is an ideal option for those who like to savor a spirit slowly and enjoy it in its purest form.
Syntax Spirits were also pouring tasters of several of their flavor-infused vodkas, including Perky Pepper and Forbidden Apple, a cinnamon-flavored vodka. In addition to their array of vodkas, I admired the artwork on their bottles. The art showed actual characters, not just logos or branding, which made them stand out a little more.
A few of the tables at the Fest were private labels; one of which was Zebra Vodka. This little company had one of the most interesting stories about their inception, one which I think everyone at the event heard at some point in the evening. The label was started by two women whose focus was to create high-end craft spirits. Their slogan, “Life isn’t always black and white, but your vodka should be,” defines the vodka itself. Pure, crisp and clean, the taste of this gluten-free vodka was unmistakable.
After a little wandering, I ended up at the Roundhouse Spirits table. This Boulder distillery was without frills or extravagance, and it didn’t need them. The products spoke for themselves. Their original gin is made not only with the traditional juniper, but with eleven other flavors like coriander, lavender, hibiscus, and citrus peel, making it a perfect choice for sipping or for an old-fashioned martini.
Despite my usual aversion to gin, I loved this one. It was spicy in a way that surprised me, and smooth in a way I never expected. The aged gin was even more distinguished, being the same as the clear gin except for having been aged for six months or more–long enough for the flavors of both the barrel and the other spices and botanicals to sink in and become more pronounced.
Last but not least, the hosts of this incredible event, the Dancing Pines Distillery, who are also based in Loveland, were there to showcase their distinguished and refreshing spirits. From their award-winning chai liqueur to their perfectly spicy spiced rum, they dazzled everyone who approached their table with unique and deliciously created spirits. For a taste of home, try the Cherry Tart!
Special thanks to Kristian and Kimberly Naslund for inviting Go Colorado to the event and for the tour of the Dancing Pines Distillery. (Look for more information about the Dancing Pines Distillery on Go Colorado soon!)
If You Go
Unfortunately, the Liquid Arts Fest is over this year, but you can visit each of the distilleries mentioned for tours or tasting, or add the Liquid Arts Fest to your calendar and check it out next year!
Dancing Pines Distillery is located in Loveland at 1527 Taurus Ct. #110. Their tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday, from noon until 7pm on weekdays and until 8pm on weekends. Call 970-635-3426 or email [email protected] for more information, or check out their website at http://www.dancingpinesdistillery.com/.
Syntax Spirits can be found in Greeley at 625 3rd Street, Unit C. Their tasting bar is open from Wednesday through Saturday starting at 4pm, and closing at 11pm. For questions about the distillery or for their hours, contact them at (970) 352-5466 or by email at [email protected]. You can also visit their website: http://www.syntaxspirits.com/.
You can find Roundhouse Spirits at 5311 Western Avenue, Suite 180 in Boulder. Contact [email protected] or (303) 819-5598 with questions or to request more information, or you can visit http://roundhousespirits.com/ to learn more.
The Breckenridge Distillery is located at 1925 Airport Rd. Breckenridge, CO 80424. To find out more, you can call (970) 547-WSKY (9759), or visit http://www.breckenridgedistillery.com/.
Peach Street Distillers is in Palisade, at 144 South Kluge Ave, Building #2. Call (970) 464-1128 or email [email protected] to learn more, or visit them online at http://www.peachstreetdistillers.com/.
To find out more about Zebra Vodka, contact [email protected] or visit their website at http://www.zebravodka.com/ to find out where their products are sold or about the company itself.
Downslope Distilling is located at 6770 South Dawson Circle, Ste. 400 Centennial, Colorado 80112. For more information, you can call them at (303) 693-4300 or visit their website at http://downslopedistilling.com/.
The makers of Trinity Absinthe Superieure–the Overland Distillery –offer their product at Dancing Pines Distillery. To learn more, contact them at [email protected] or by phone (970) 692-4193. You can also learn more about their environmental efforts at their website: http://www.overlanddistillery.com/.