The cookies from Gnarly Mountain Cookies are designed to offer a taste of Colorado. "We're trying to be playful and whimsical," explains owner Zachary Weiss. But the slow-baked soft cookies offer more than just a taste. They go to extremes to serve up the flavor of this state, reflecting the mountain-loving, beer-drinking culture that Weiss loves.
The cookie company “was definitely a corona baby,” Weiss says. An entrepreneur who’s worked in the food and beverage industry for the last twenty years, he'd noticed how bakers were finding ways to work within the realities of the pandemic to create successful business models. He started to brainstorm his own ideas, and decided that cookies hadn't yet trended like other desserts.
He started Gnarly Mountain with partner Brett Asbury as a cookie-making and delivery service late last fall, but the company has already expanded, adding wholesale as well as corporate gifts. On June 1, it will debut a new version of its offerings called “Gnarly 9," which showcases the seven standard flavors as well as seasonal varieties.
Weiss says he spends hours combing the internet looking for unique flavors, and while he understands that some people gravitate toward classic combinations, he wants his cookies to be bold and different. He takes his flavor inspirations to baker Doug Mowery, who plays with the actual proportions.
After more than six months of experimentation, Weiss jokes that he’s eaten too many cookies, but that’s also part of the fun.
The current Gnarly Mountain Cookies menu includes such flavors as “Peanut Butter and Mountain Jelly,” “Colorado Craft Beer Snacks” and “Apres Hike Marg.” The craft-beer cookie is made from spent grains used to ferment beer along with additional beer. “It creates a flavor and texture profile that’s less sweet and more salty,” Weiss says. The Apres Hike cookie is topped with fresh lime zest and represents what the celebratory end of a trail looks like for Weiss.
Hiking is one of Weiss’s favorite activities in the spring, summer and fall. He grew up in Pennsylvania and decided to go to college at the University of Colorado Boulder on somewhat of a whim, only knowing that he’d loved visiting Jackson Hole while in high school. “I had a dorm-room view of the Flatirons, and I’d never seen anything like that,” he says of his introduction to Boulder. That was in 1999, and his whole family has followed him to Colorado since then.
People should make a conscious, daily effort to appreciate the mountains around them, Weiss says. The Gnarly Mountain Cookies name is an homage to that idea, a tribute to the partners' love of the outdoors.
But Weiss hopes that Gnarly Mountain Cookies can honor Colorado in tangible ways as well, including supporting local agriculture. For example, the summer seasonal cookies are "Palisade Peaches & Cream" and “Sweet Corn,” which is actually slightly less sweet than a traditional cookie. It's designed to taste more like a corn muffin, Weiss suggests, in case customers want to have some dessert for breakfast.
For another breakfast option, the Gnarly Mountain Cookies menu also offers a “Horchata Cinnamon Breakfast” cookie.
Weiss admits that he has dessert (although not always a cookie) with every meal. “It’s gotten worse," he admits. "I can’t help it anymore.”
Gnarly Mountain Cookies products are available at local eateries including Kaos Pizza, Tea Street and Mondo Market. To find more locations, follow the company on Instagram and Facebook; you can also order cookies from the website.