Eric Foster, co-founder of Stem Cider

Eric Foster, co-founder of Stem Cider. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

With an international reputation for quality and a growing list of niche craft creations, Colorado’s liquid arts industry has become a model to follow. The state is home to an eclectic mix of well-known beverage brands – especially in the beer sector – and the industry’s pursuit of excellence extends to all aspects of brewing, fermenting and distilling wine, ciders and spirits.

Liquid Arts 101

No matter the end product, there are lots of factors that contribute to the success and growth of Colorado’s liquid arts industry, with the ultimate goal being to create a delicious and unique product for consumers.

One of those factors is using local products to make beverages. This is a founding principle for many Colorado cideries, including one of the region’s cider pioneers, Big B’s Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss, and six-generations-strong Talbott Farms cider in Palisade.

In Denver’s RiNo Art District, Eric Foster, co-founder/CEO of Stem Ciders and board member of the Rocky Mountain Cider Association (RMCA), finds that working with local growers provides an opportunity to showcase and promote “heirloom apples from our own backyard.” This type of orchard-to-glass collaboration has even led to tasty experiments with local pickle makers.

Stem Cider

A production run of Hopped Cider at Stem Cider. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

“The 30,000-square-foot facility will be home to our cider-making production, offices, a restaurant and taproom with retail space,” Foster says. The expansion will also add 25 new employees to the team.

With Brad Page, one of the principals of RMCA, Foster and other local cideries are leading a regional cider revival, benefiting both the state’s industry and agriculture.

For wine-grape growers, Colorado’s arid climate helps deliver the desired complex flavors in well-balanced wine, while minimizing pests and diseases. The state gets more than 300 days of sunshine each year, with cool nights and low humidity. Coupled with an alkaline soil composition, Colorado has prime conditions for growing world-class grapes.

Lucky for consumers, that means Colorado can make a wide variety of wines with different types of grapes, including sauvignon blanc, merlot, Riesling, viognier, chardonnay, muscat, chambourcin, and other fruits including cherries, apples and peaches.

“Additionally, our wineries are being creative about new approaches to packaging,” Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, says. “The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver and Colterris Wines in Palisade are putting their wines in cans. Talon Wine Brands in Palisade and Kingman Estates Winery in Denver have had success packaging their wines in Mylar (storage) bags inside a box that are more convenient for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Golden Moon Distillery

Golden Moon Distillery in Golden makes small-batch craft spirits using historical techniques. Waste from its distilling process is used as compost and livestock feed by local farmers. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto

The Craft Distillery Movement

The number of distilleries in Colorado is also increasing, as is their waste-not production style. For example, at Golden Moon Distillery, located in Golden, waste from distilling processes is used as compost and livestock feed by local farmers and gardeners.

“We want to be as green as possible. This is amazing material that other people can benefit from,” says Stephen Gould, proprietor of Golden Moon Distillery and one of the principals of the Colorado Distillers Guild.

Unlike traditional distilleries, Gould applies techniques used by distillers in the late 1800s to develop a variety of artisan ultra- premium spirits, distributed across 13 national markets and three in Europe.

“We’re making spirits that no one else is making, like our crème de violette. It’s the only distilled violet liqueur in history and we believe it’s currently the only American-made violet liqueur of a dozen brands available worldwide,” he says.

Gould stresses that the continued growth and success of Colorado’s distilling industry relies heavily on the state maintaining its pro- business laws. The strong support of the state Department of Agriculture has also been instrumental.

The “Colorado difference” is perhaps best summed up by a philosophy out of Palisade-based The Peach Street Distillery: Hard work packs the best punch. It’s a method that’s tried and tasted true.