WATCH LIVE: ‘Channel 2 Daybreak’

Stranahan’s: Colorado’s First Distillery

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any length of time, you know that our state is chock full of all kinds of products that are nationally; sometimes even internationally; known.

Ever since the Pikes Peak Gold Rush flooded the area with thirsty miners 155 years ago, Colorado has been a hot bed for brewing. But, despite our rich history with suds, the hard stuff didn’t come until later. Much later.

“We’re the first distillery in Colorado, that was in 2002 and the first whiskey in Colorado,” said Master Distiller Rob Dietrich.

Even though booze is big business, Stranahan’s single-malt whiskey has etched a prominent space in the market.  “When we first started there was only 22 craft distillery’s running at that time. Now, just in Colorado alone, there’s 72.”

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could sell out of whiskey,” Dietrich said.  “Even liquor store owners were hiding it behind the counter and you had to ask for it.”

Now they’re pumping out enough to fill glasses across the nation, but have maintained their local flabor with Master Distiller Dietrich at the helm. He said, “This is your whiskey, this is Colorado’s whiskey.”

From grain to bottle, It’s all done right here in Denver. “We only have 4 ingredients, 100% malt barley, water, yeast and time in the barrel.”

That may sound simple, but it’s anything but. It’s a multi-step process that takes about two weeks, then, it ages in a barrel for at least two years.

“We’re living in the past, present and future because what we made in the past is what we’re bottling now and what we’re making now, is what we’re going to bottle in the future.”

And bottling is part of the fun. Nearly 15 years ago when they started out, they would have friends help bottle their booze. Now, nearly 23,000 people are on a wait list to help. “Basically they’re just working for 4 hours, getting a bottle of whiskey for their efforts and they get to put their fingerprints on the process,” Dietrich said.

It’s a process that ends with a sipping whiskey even this Master Distiller can’t get enough of. “I absolutely love every smell coming into the building from mashing and fermenting to distillation to the rich smells of the barrel house, and of course, nosing good whiskey.”

Stranahan’s offers free tours six days a week. You can learn all about the process and at the end enjoy a little taste of their whiskey, something that’s Unique To Colorado.