Ballmer Peak Distillery owners Austin Adamson and Eric Strom don't have a lot of experience running their own distillery, but what they lack in time served they make up in energy, ideas and a strong drive to create tasty spirits for Lakewood residents.
"So far, everyone has loved having us here and there hasn't been any negative feedback," says Strom, who manages the tasting room bar at 12347 West Alameda Avenue. Adamson, the distiller, adds, "We are kind of the only thing like this around here, and certainly the only distillery around."
Adamson and Strom got the idea for Ballmer Peak Distillery while drinking at the Golden Moon Speakeasy in Golden. They enjoyed the experience and booze so much, they decided they should create something similar. So in 2018 they signed a lease on a small building that was once an Allstate auto repair shop in the middle of a parking lot, and since then have worked to bring Ballmer Peak Distillery together. Adamson fired up the still to begin production last October, and the venue officially opened a month later with six spirits on offer. And in a shift from the standard craft distillery lineup, three of those are rum.
"We didn't want whiskey to be the main focus, and we like gin, but so many people say they hate gin. I love a good rum and tiki [drink], and thought it was a good fit," says the thirty-year-old Strom, who worked as a web developer before this venture.
The current bottle list includes a white whiskey, an American single malt, an Australian-style gin and three kinds of rum: silver, golden and spiced, the last of which exudes flavors of ginger, two types of cinnamon, grains of paradise and peppercorns. For the first two spirits, Adamson makes a grain-forward base spirit, aging the single malt on oak spirals rather than in barrels, something that may change down the line, he says. The golden rum also gets aged this way.
In a unique twist, the Australian-style gin uses the same molasses base spirit Adamson concocts for the rum. This gives it a sweet roundness not commonly thought of as a gin trait, but it works well and goes down smoothly. There's also an ingredient list featuring botanicals native to Australia, including eucalyptus, finger limes, lemon myrtle and pepper berry, all inspired by Adamson's stint working in the country. In the future, Adamson plans to release other gins with an international bent, such as a Taiwanese version with starfruit, lychee and kumquat, inspired by the island where his sister lives, where his aunt was born, and where, at one time, his grandfather was the personal doctor of the country's ruler.
Standing in front of a shiny copper still in classic Carhartt khaki overalls with a long beard and baseball cap, Adamson looks every bit the part of a distiller. In fact, he had a stint on Moonshiners, a boozy competition show on the Discovery Channel where he placed second while representing Denver Distillery. It was at this South Broadway facility where Adamson cut his teeth as a spirits maker, working up from an assistant to head distiller over the course of two years. Most of what the 31-year-old learned prior to that came from reading, online forums, experimentation and do-it-yourself YouTube videos. Before that, Adamson worked in IT, at a flour mill and doing video production in Australia.
"I have done a lot of traveling and want to bring those flavors that don't get the spotlight into our spirits," he notes, adding that he's working with Savory Spice to make the blends for each spirit.
The tasting room the two men built proves intimate and cozy, with a modernest-meets-industrial vibe and just a touch of tiki. Brightly colored vintage ceramic vessels line one of the shelves; they get filled with an array of tropical-themed drinks featuring the commercial spirits as well as some mixers made in-house.
There are other cocktails, too, mainly takes on the classics, such as the Bees Knees and the Lakewood Mule, all ranging from $6 to $8. And in keeping with the no-other-booze law that limits tasting rooms that want to serve cocktails like a bar, the team made a deal with the nearby Old 121 Brewhouse to craft root beer and soda for their taps. Of course, you can just order your booze neat to get a sense of what these two are doing. Take a bottle home, too; each comes in under $30, making them a reasonable investment.
"We wanted this to be a place people could afford to go out to," says Adamson. Adds Strom: "We made the bottles affordable because we think it's good, and we want people to drink it and have it be accessible."
Aside from servicing an area that really has nothing close to a distillery or cocktail scene, Adamson and Strom have made a point to be as sustainable as possible. They process waste through Originateve, a company that utilizes what it can as feed, fertilizer and compost. The water from distilling also gets reused through a filtration device that saves thousands of gallons from going down the drain weekly.
Visit Ballmer Peak Distillery from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Thursday and from 4 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. While there, ask about Ballmer Peak: It's not a mountain, but rather an inside joke among software developers.
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