Top six Colorado drinks/liquids Hickenlooper should promote instead of fracking fluid

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Governor John Hickenlooper is just back from the National Governor's Conference in Washington, where he did not talk about drinking fracking fluid, as he had during Senate testimony two weeks ago. Hick's quip about his sip of frack fluid made headlines, but there are at least six Colorado drinks we'd rather he highlight.

"It was not particularly tasty, but I'm still alive to tell the story," Hickenlooper told the aforementioned Senate committee about his taste of CleanStim, a fracking fluid created by Halliburton that Hickenlooper tried in his office back in November 2011. But if the governor really wants to promote Colorado, this state has many more liquid assets worth pushing. Our top six:

6. Red Zinger Tea Before the Front Range became known as the Napa Valley of Craft Beer, it was renowned for another liquid: the teas coming out of Celestial Seasonings, which got its start as a hippie-dippy enterprise in Boulder more than forty years ago and grew into a big, big business. Red Zinger was the flavor that put Celestial on the map, though, and was even the name of an iconic bike race that rolled through Colorado decades ago. Next time Hickenlooper starts to spill a confession before Congress, he might want to take a break for a nice cup of tea and some hard thought. 5) Santiago's green chile Although green chile got its start in New Mexico, it reached its culinary pinnacle in Colorado, which turned the thin brew into a gravy-thick dish of its own. The Santiago's green chile is one of the best in town. This homegrown chain began as a hole-in-the-wall family joint, but its green chile -- both mild and hot ("you got what it takes?" -- won so many fans that Santiago's now has locations across the metro area, and the green chile is not only stocked in grocery stores, but Santiago's will ship it. 4) Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Today, Colorado is home to dozens of distilleries, and specialty spirits is a growing business in this state. But Stranahan's, which got its start in the anteroom of a Ballpark neighborhood brewery, was the first to make Colorado whiskey, using hand-crafted distilling techniques and Colorado's finest natural ingredients. And though the company went big-time two years ago, it's still based here.

Tip for the gov: Try a shot of Stranahan's in a cup of Red Zinger.

Continue to keep counting down the top six Colorado drinks/liquids John Hickenlooper should promote. 3) Rocky Mountain Spring Water Rocky Mountain spring water got its biggest break when it was touted as key to Coors beer decades ago (before Coors started brewing on the East Coast with what was definitely not Rocky Mountain spring water). Today, it's featured in a number of spirits distilled in the state, but it's still best when enjoyed straight from a spring -- but beware giardia.

For guaranteed germ-free spring water, try the Brown Palace, which has its own artesian well.

2) Bong water Yes, fracking fluid is an unfortunate byproduct of Colorado's booming oil and gas business. Thanks to Amendment 64, this state is about to see even more green coming from recreational marijuana use...which often includes the unfortunate byproduct of bong water. It won't get you high and it doesn't taste good -- but it's got to be better for you than fracking fluid.

For that matter, maybe the gas business should consider using it for fracking fluid.

1) Craft Beer John Hickenlooper was an unemployed geologist when he got the idea of opening Colorado's first brewpub, recruiting a handful of dreamers to create the Wynkoop Brewing Co., which opened in LoDo in 1988 -- not only helping to revitalize that part of town, but jump-starting an entire industry that today boasts close to a hundred craft-brewers across the state. Beer still remains Hick's drink of choice, as he wrote to supporters after the frack flap: "Despite what you might have heard, I much prefer drinking beer to frack fluid" (full letter below).

And while at the Wynkoop, don't miss Patty's Chile Beer -- created when the Westword office was located across the street.

Continue to read a Hickenlooper letter about fracking fluid. Here's the e-mail Hickenlooper sent to supporters:

Despite what you might have heard, I much prefer drinking beer to frack fluid.

For the uninitiated, "frack fluid" is the liquid product oil and gas developers use in deep underground drilling operations. It is mostly water, but includes other ingredients and chemicals that are designed to open up oil and gas deposits and be recovered in the drilling process.

Knowing what's in the fluid and making sure the ingredients are known to the public is what prompted us to pass the most rigorous and transparent frack fluid disclosure rule in the country about a year ago. We negotiated that rule with industry and the environmental community (including the Environmental Defense Fund).

Our goal has been to encourage industry to use ingredients that are safe for the environment. So when an industry executive came to my office over a year ago touting the safety of their product -- a new form of frack fluid based on food additives - we put him to the test by asking whether it was safe to drink. He said yes. So I challenged him to take a sip. He did, and so did I.

I can't say it tasted good, but it was, as advertised, a completely safe product for human consumption. (This is not to imply that anyone would drink the frack fluid being used today).

As we move forward in developing energy, we ought to insist on the strictest and most effective environmental safeguards.

Although tasting frack fluid might seem newsworthy to some, it was not really the point of testimony we recently gave to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in Washington, D.C. We were drawing attention to the fact that Colorado has created the most comprehensive and stringent set of regulations around oil and gas production in the country.

If you are interested in what went on there, please take a moment to click on this link (and go to 48:45) and let me know what you think.


John Hickenlooper

From our archives: "15 Reasons why Denver is the coolest city."

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