Raising a Toast to Native Fish

Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy running rivers.org/Erik Myhre Photo

Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy running rivers.org/Erik Myhre Photo

Rye whiskey collaboration another win for rivers foundation

By Steve Graham

Laws Whiskey House may be just off the Platte River, but their latest release is all about the Rio Grande.

Nativa rye whiskey grains are all sourced in the San Luis Valley and fed with Rio Grande water. And Laws used Rio Grande water to take the whiskey from barrel strength to bottle strength. Finally, proceeds from the Nativa release go to native trout conservation projects in the Rio Grande and elsewhere.


The Nativa whiskey collaboration is the latest project of the Running Rivers, a Denver-based non-profit group that raises money and awareness for watershed projects and native fish in Colorado.

Running Rivers president Andrew Todd said his organization has raised more than $10,000 through its Rare Fish Rare Beer Project.

“That’s really getting legs and has been really cool to watch,” Todd said.

Until now, the project has created two beers and the rye whiskey, and several more are in the works in Colorado and Iowa.

Three Barrel Brewing Company in Del Norte created the first beer, the Trucha Grande, in honor of the Rio Grande Cutthroat. It is a barrel-aged strong ale based on Three Barrel’s coconut lager.

Bring the Greenback was the second beer, a limited-release table sour, created with Baere Brewing Company in Denver. It was aged on green spruce tips from the banks of Bear Creek, the only home of a rare Colorado native fish, the greenback cutthroat trout.


The beers and the whiskey grew out of Running Rivers’ Flyathlon events, which take the triathlon concept to the river and combines fly fishing, trail running and craft beer.

Two more Flyathlons are scheduled for this year. The Middle Creek Flyathlon is sold out, but spaces are available for the Lake Fork Flyathlon in September.  

Laws only made 220 bottles of the Nativa whiskey, each with a custom-made fishing fly, and half were sold at a release event on June 14.

“It’s always good to get with like-minded conservation-focused folks over good drinks and share some stories,” said Peyton Mason of Laws.

Mason said the remaining bottles are only available at the distillery and are likely to sell out this weekend.

Click here for Laws location and other information, and click here for more on the Running Rivers project.