Sake is a traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice, and while it is extremely popular in Japan, there are fewer than twenty sake breweries in the United States, and only one in Colorado.
After working in Japanese restaurants as well as breweries, Colorado Sake Co. co-founder William Stuart was inspired to create a fun, welcoming experience to introduce more people to the spirit. The business opened in September 2018 with an 850-square-foot brewery and taproom at 3559 Larimer Street. When the wine and cheese shop it shared the space with closed in 2019, the sake brewery was able to expand, and it has since added a 14,000 square-foot brewing and bottling facility near Colorado Boulevard and I-70.
Colorado Sake Co. recently announced a public offering through the crowdfunding platform StartEngine. As of July 6, a total of 179 investors have raised $149,362; the goal is $1.07 million. The company will also offer an employee-owned program for its eighteen current employees, to help keep staff motivated and take ownership in Colorado Sake's growth.
Stuart was inspired to get into the sake business frp, his time working in Japanese restaurants and breweries. Along with co-founder Heather Dennis, he wanted to introduce the spirit to more people in a new, fun way. The taproom in RiNo was originally only open Thursday through Saturday so that the space could be used for brewing the other days, but its popularity soon made it clear that growth was imperative in order to meet the demand.
From the start, there was an emphasis on sake education for those new to the drink, and Stuart is excited for people to learn more about the often-misunderstood beverage. During Sake 101, a 45-minute tour, guests can sample sake and check out the open fermentation system while learning more about the spirit. While tours were on hold during COVID restrictions, a new, revamped event is expected to launch in the fall and will be available through online booking.
The signature American Standard, a traditional premium Junmani Ginjo sake, is the brewery's best-seller, and it also serves as the base for infusions. It consists of only four ingredients: rice sourced from California, koji (a fungus widely used to make alcohol in Asia), yeast and water, creating notes of grapefruit and banana. An infused option, Green Machine, is the next most popular, and is flavored with ginger, cilantro, lime and serrano chiles.
You can order a four-glass full flight, a half flight with four half-glasses, a full 5-ounce glass or a 2.5-ounce pour at the taproom. Sake slushes are also available, and this summer, Colorado Sake Co. will debut Original Hard Sake Seltzers with flavors like blood orange, lime, mixed berry and yuzu ginger. “Sake seltzer is going to be a conversation-changer,” Stuart predicts, noting that the popularity of hard seltzers will help the company expose even more people to sake.
Besides introducing and elevating sake, Stuart and his team also strive to create a memorable, unique experience in the taproom with events like trivia and weekly comedy shows in the back room, now dubbed the Denver Comedy Lounge.
Food is also available; Colorado Sake Co. teamed up with Denver Sushi House at the start of the pandemic to give laid-off chefs an opportunity to continue their art. The Japanese food menu is filled with signature sushi rolls, dumplings, fried rice, miso-glazed edamame and more. There are also hibachi nights and dim sum weekends on the schedule.
With steady growth since its launch and passion to keep fueling that growth, Stuart and his team hope crowdfunding investors will help Colorado Sake Co. level up once again.
Colorado Sake Co. is located at 3559 Larimer Street and is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to close, Saturday from noon to close, and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. For more information, call 720-449-6963 or visit coloradosakeco.com.