Last year, the coordinators of the Colorado Distillers Festival created a tongue-in-cheek infographic comparing the costs of road-tripping around the state to visit distilleries versus simply attending the festival. The 1,020-mile road trip would take five days and cost $132 in gas alone, according to the infographic. The festival meanwhile cost $40 and allowed people to taste all of the same great beverages.
Even so, co-organizer Josh Mishell couldn't get the idea of an epic, booze-packed road trip off the brain. So, this week, he set out to visit every distillery in Colorado. We caught up with Mishell on the first day of his trip to talk about how his quest will spread the word about the Colorado spirits industry and promote awareness of the third annual Colorado Distillers Festival, which takes place Sunday, September 8 at the Rackhouse Pub.
Westword: Did you decide to do this based on the infographic from last year?
Josh Mishell: We had sold very few tickets last year with four or five weeks to go. We had to do some sort of marketing to sell tickets, and we needed a strategy. I talked to the owner of the Rackhouse, and we partnered with the Colorado Distillers Guild -- we had the idea to make an infographic, and we had fifteen distilleries on board. The idea was that people had two options: to take a week off work, drive all around the state, pay for lodging and gas, and be responsible enough not to drink and drive; or, coming to the distillers festival in their hometown and try the fifteen plus distillers there. Even though we ended up selling a lot of tickets to last year's festival, we were curious to know if the idea for the road trip was possible. So, we found a beautiful way to go and put together a Mapquest with all the stops.
What, besides exceptional spirits knowledge, are you looking to get out of this trip?
Our mantra for our festival (and for this trip) is "Always Drink Colorado," a term we borrowed from Peach Street Distillers. And on this road trip, all the content, including tweets, Instagrams, blog entries -- any and all interaction along the way -- will be used by the Colorado Distillers Guild for marketing that sentiment. Our goal is to spread the word about what this industry is about and sell this festival out. Craft spirits are where craft beer was 30 years ago -- the distilling industry is a homegrown industry, it's American, and we have it really good here in Colorado. We want to show everyone how great it is. I know how lucky I am to be the one to do this.
What will this journey entail? what's the plan?
We started with Downslope Distilling in Centennial--they're local and on the way. From there, we're heading out to Deerhammer Distilling in Buena Vista, Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt, and then we'll head over to Crested Butte, where we're spending the night in an Airbnb rental. In Crested Butte, we'll spend some time with Montanya Rum, taking photos, maybe fly fishing. From there we're heading to Ridgway to check out Trail Town Still, and then we'll venture on to Telluride for the night before driving to Honey House Distillery in Durango. We'll spend a day with Ska Brewing, too. Then onto Mancos to visit the Mancos Valley Distillery, with a detour through Mesa Verde, Moab, and Arches for a little diversion. After that, we'll hit the JF Strothman Distillery and a Grand Junction Rockies game in Grand Junction. We're also planning on checking out Two Guns Distillery in Leadville. We'll have an exceptional base of content and a great travelogue after visiting ten plus in a week.
Is there a distillery in particular that you're excited to get to?
I'm really excited for Deerhammer. I saw them as a nerdy designer and loved their bottles. Their product is amazing, and we might even move a new still into the distillery. I'm really looking forward to Peach Street; they just won distillery of the year, and their Colorado Straight Bourbon is some of the best in the state. Plus, I love Ska, and they're affiliated with them. Their Jackalope Gin got me back into gin drinking. Woody Creek Distillers has great facilities, Breckenridge Distillery, too. We'll be trying samples of everything, but we'll be self-controlled. Every still is different, and every process is different, so I'm excited to explore new ones. We'll be taking photographs for a collection of stills of Colorado. I brought a lined milk crate to bring some bottles home to commemorate the journey.
Do you think you'll make this happen before the festival in September?
I don't know if I'll be able to visit all of the distilleries, but I think I can get about 35 in before the festival What I don't get to, I'll go back and get next year. This might become an annual trip. This is such a cool opportunity, and I'm choosing not to squander it.
Mishell will continue the spirits saga on the Front Range when he returns from his adventures in the Western Slope. You can follow his progress through the blog at www.coloradodistillersfestival.com (where you can also win tickets to the upcoming festival) or by following @CODistFest on Twitter or codistfest on Instagram.