By Neill Pieper and Joe Ross
Look out beer festivals, craft spirits are on the rise and festivals such as Still on the Hill in Breckenridge proved that great tastes come in many forms.
The Oct. 21-23 festival was well attended, with a line wrapping part way around the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center prior to the kickoff at 4 p.m.
Attendees were well pampered with live music from the Honey Gitters that had a bluegrass-esqe twang that paired perfectly with Colorado-made whiskey. Festival organizers also arranged hors d'oeuvres to help keep attendees in the game throughout the three-hour fest that featured nearly 40 distillers. Whiskey, vodka, gin and rum were accompanied by lesser-known offerings such as the Amaro liqueur from Peach Street Distillers.
Wayne Anderson, co-founder of Spirit Hound Distillery in Lyons, said the Breck spirits festival was on the A-List of stops each year. He mentioned the crowds and venue – the Riverwalk Center just off Breck’s downtown – as reasons the event is one he likes to attend. Anderson also was pouring a liqueur, Spirit Hound’s Richardo’s, made with decaf coffee.
A recently released American Craft Spirits Association study showed that between 2010 and 2015, overall volume increased at a 27.4% compound annual growth rate. The industry employs over 12,000 full-time employees. With more volume, comes more opportunity for distillers to share their message.
Stephen Gould of Golden Moon Distillery said his small staff was spread so thin with a variety of weekend events, he didn’t get to set up a full-blown booth for the Breckenridge Festival. But it didn’t take long for attendees to figure out that his Colorado Single Malt Whiskey was worth discovering. Gould won a double gold medal with his first batch earlier this year in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
As in the beer world, Colorado is a leader among spirit purveyors. The top five states by number of craft distilleries are California, New York, Washington, Colorado and Texas.