Breckenridge Spirits festival favorites

A few of the staff winners from Still on the Hill

By Neill Pieper

The Thirst staff had the opportunity to sample world-class spirits from Colorado distilleries at the Breckenridge Craft Spirits festival. Below are a few of the standouts from the Oct. 21-23 fest. Quality, local ingredients have become a staple of the Colorado craft movement and that was definitely the case at the Breck fest, known as Still on the Hill.

When looking back at our favorites, local ingredients and the unapologetic and passionate characters distilling the products are what make this festival great. Here goes …

Bear Creek Wheat Whiskey – Our entire staff in attendance mentioned Bear Creek as a favorite. While their Rye offering was excellent as well, the wheat really hit the mark. Using a 100% organic whole-wheat wash, the end product is derived from 100% grain to glass and is very approachable. Bear Creek doesn’t cut corners, and it’s obvious from the quality of their spirit.

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Laws Rye Whiskey – Another distillery that doesn’t cut corners, and just a few blocks from Bear Creek is Laws Whiskey House makes a top-notch Colorado rye. Utilizing grain from the San Luis River Valley, Laws is committed to bringing in the best Colorado ingredients. On a trip down to Laws last spring, founder Al Law explained with passion the difficulty of producing a rye whiskey. Aggressive and difficult to balance, the spicy characteristics are hard to negotiate to perfection. However, they pulled out a spirit that showcased the best of Colorado and left us cRYEing for more.

Woody Creek Vodka – In a process that is more “soil-to-glass” than “grain-to-glass,” Woody Creek harvests potatoes from rich Colorado soil, grown minutes from their distillery. Distiller David Matthews cooks, ferments and distills one of the best gluten-free vodkas around. Utilizing a behemoth of a still, Matthews distills their award-winning vodka just once. Admittedly, our staff wouldn’t be considered vodka aficionados, however, this vodka brings some character to the segment, which makes us excited about Colorado vodka.

Stranahan’s Snowflake Whiskey – This limited release from Stranahan’s is a truly unique offering from the Colorado whiskey juggernaut. Showcasing a different side to what whiskey often is, the once-a-year releases showcase at least four years of aging in both traditional new American oak and other barrels, such as wine, rum and tequila. The batch poured at the festival showcased red wine cask aging, bringing out characteristics of rich fruit on the back end. Delicious.

Wood’s Tenderfoot Whiskey – Brothers PT and Lee Wood, co-founders of Woods, are about as quintessential Colorado as you get. The idea for their distillery was born on the river and continues to be driven by their Colorado passions. Slight smoke and malty chocolate notes balance their whiskey, plus it can be found in tin bottles, ready to take out with you to your favorite Colorado spot. We love the outdoor connection and how they are adapting their passion into the business.

Dancing Pines Chai Liqueur – We Denverites have been basking in summer-like conditions well into the fall but heading up to Breckenridge, the temperature dropped considerably. So we were very happy to see Dancing Pines Chai liqueur to warm us up and remind us that it is, in fact, fall. Owners Kristian and Kimberly Naslund passionately poured this creation flavored with whole-leaf black tea and five spices.

Best Cocktail

Squeal Rum - Featuring their dark rum, Squeal put together a phenomenal cocktail for the attendees. Using lychee fruit in the concoction, the sweet, grape-esque flavors of the fruit paired well with their rum. Squeal aims to be a unique Colorado offering as one of the few dark rums on the market. Vanilla and peach undertones help compliment a smooth finish to their spirit.