Occasionally two great things can come together and not only taste good, but change your life. Such is the case with Colorado Liquor Pickles, an artisan product made in Longmont by Jenn and Jerry Wolf. The couple began brewing beer at home and got the idea to use the beer to make pickles, so they began making beer pickles under the apt moniker My Beer Pickles. Now, they're sourcing craft beer and spirits from Colorado companies to produce and beer- and liquor-fueled cukes, which they're selling at venues all over the state.
"We are the free-spirited types and were looking for something where we could work locally and support local businesses," says Jenn. "The craft [beer and liquor] industry is pretty huge...so it seemed like the prefect opportunity to grow our business."
The idea to create boozy pickles came one night in 2015 after dining at a restaurant in Maryland, where the couple lived for a time before moving back to Colorado. They ordered fried beer pickles and were disappointed to find that the beer part was in the batter, not in the brine. It would be pretty easy, they thought, to make a true beer pickle; since they already had plenty of their own beer at home, they decide to give pickles a whirl.
"We messed around and made our pickles, then forced them on friends and family," recalls Jenn, adding that it took about a year to develop the winning recipe. "They thought they were good, so we went from there."
The couple moved to Longmont and reached out to their friends at Left Hand Brewing Company, striking a deal in which the Wolfs would make the crunchy pickles with the brewery's beer, and the staff would try them out and give notes.
"We went through the whole list of what they do. Since I love IPAs, we started with that," Jenn continues, noting that some of the best combos involved Warrior IPA, Good JuJu and Introvert Session IPA.
By the end of 2016, the Wolfs decided to leave their jobs (Jenn as a decades-long employee of Home Depot and Jerry as a manager for CarMax) and pursue the pickles professionally. They started adding other beers and now have a list of twenty breweries they work with as well as three distilleries. Since adding the distilleries, including Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt, Spirit Hound Distillers in Lyons and Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, they changed the name to Colorado Liquor Pickles. Each jar uses a special spice blend from Savory Spice and the same recipe for the basic pickle, with only the booze changing.
"We really have come to love all of them, and it's hard to say which one we like the most," Jenn says. "I really like the gin ones [from Spirit Hound]; they are super-fresh and have a really neat botanical taste."
You can try the pickles in various forms at the distilleries and breweries where the Wolfs source their beer and spirits. In Longmont, you can sample the beer or cider cukes from Wibby Brewing and St. Vrain Cidery, respectively; at Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, you can munch on the stout or sour pickles off the charcuterie menu when you dine in; and at Spirit Hound, you can get a side of pickles with a whiskey flight, or purchase a jar to take home. But that's just the beginning: The Wolfs have also launched a Kickstarter campaign to help secure a commercial kitchen and spread the brand even further.
"The pickles are unique to each brewery or distillery, so if someone likes one brewery more, they can get the pickles there," says Jenn. "It's another way to take home a tasty Colorado product."