In the past we have limited our March Madness reader polls when it comes to booze to separate categories. After all, mixing beverages is usually the ticket to one hell of a hangover. Beer has been our mainstay. After all, Colorado is the best brewing state in the contry. But when we looked at the landscape of the state’s craft libation creators, we realized that there’s more than hops here. We decided to run a bracket that would determine the best beer, wine, liquor and cider in the state in each category and then face the four winners off to determine our readers’ favorite drink. Here are the results. You may be surprised who won.
Stem Ciders | Denver, Colorado
That’s right, cider came out on top with our readers. That should not come as a huge surprise, though, since cider is the hot new drink in the state and as producers gain more fans, they continue to find innovative new ways to differentiate their offerings. Stem Ciders opened in 2014 in Denver’s RiNo district in the midst of the once-blighted and now-trendy area’s revival. With a space that’s easy to enjoy and a wide selection of ciders on tap—including special releases such as a killer whiskey barrel-aged apricot cider—it’s no wonder the place is leading the charge when it comes to putting cider on top. “Stem Ciders produces cider founded on three main principles: quality, style and tradition. It’s this philosophy that drives our business, our products and our team’s commitment to making the highest quality cider imaginable, while reviving the cider traditions that we cherish,” says Courtney O’Rourke, director of marketing.
But why cider? How can it beat beer? “With the U.S. cider market booming, there’s an added layer of curiosity around the craft cider industry,” says O’Rourke. “Whether it’s orchard to glass, farm to table or mass-produced in a factory, consumers are eager to know what’s in the cider they are drinking, where it came from and how it was produced. Stem’s commitment to quality and transparency at the forefront and our ‘keep it simple, keep it craft’ philosophy resonates deeply with today’s craft thirsty consumer.” stemciders.com
Ska Brewing | Durango, Colorado
Ska has been basking in EO-reader love as of late, winning best brewery in our Best of the Rockies poll in March, too. That’s no surprise when you consider that not only does Ska pump out outstanding drafts, such as its famed Modus Hoperandi and Mexican Lager, it’s also a community gathering place with trivia nights and food that keep fans coming back. “You can’t make great beer without great people,” says Co-Founder, Dave Thibodeau. “We have an interesting culture here: We’re kind of old-school punk rockers, but pretty progressive brewers. We care deeply about our sisters and brothers here, and we have what some might describe as an ‘over the top’ love for all things Colorado. The beauty is that when people fit into that culture, great things happen. It’s actually pretty organic. When it comes down to it, it’s our team here and the energy that they put into making good things and make great beers happen.”
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery | Salida, Colorado
Brothers and master craft distillers Lee and PT Wood have become Colorado icons, brewing their classy, award-winning hootch in Salida and enjoying fly fishing and powder skiing when they are not at work on their Tenderfoot Whiskey or Treeline Gin. “We like to do things in a very hands-on way that really showcases our love of the mountains and Colorado,” says PT Wood. “From big robust whiskeys to our fun playful gins made with ingedients like Colorado-grown Cascade hops to our aluminum Backcountry bottle, we try and add a bit of adventure to each bottle.” It’s that attention to the human connection that makes the brothers’ brand a crowd favorite. “I like to think we won because we make great juice and our friends that drink our spirits from across the state know that we do things the right way,” says PT.
Two Rivers Winery | Grand Junction, Colorado
Colorado’s West Slope has been producing award-winning wine for decades. This savvy winery and chateau on the state’s sunny side has succeeded by working with the unique terroir and environment of the Grand Junction area to craft outstanding Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay and more. “Two Rivers favors the elegant wine flavors that can be achieved with grapes grown at altitude,” says winemaker Brandon Witham, who appreciates the love from readers but also gives a shout out to the whole region. “Folks here in the Colorado wine industry are in it together. We actively share knowledge and help each other out. The Grand Valley is a good community and our quality continues to grow.” tworiverswinery.com