Distilleries are beginning to open their tasting rooms, but it's not as easy as pouring off a few drams. To serve booze to the public, each has to navigate social distancing and extra sanitation while offering a food menu from a licensed food provider (or their own kitchen) for visitors because of statewide cornavirus-based regulations.
To comply with food and drink laws, Block Distilling Co. in RiNo has partnered with the Walnut Room, which will provide pizza, and Work & Class, which will make burritos, tamales, ceviche and cookies. Experience this happy match when the tasting room opens on Friday, June 12, and pair a bite with a pour of summer gin or something from the new cocktail menu, such as the Money Melon, with Spring gin, honeydew, cantaloupe, lemon juice and chamomile simple syrup, or the So Fresh and So Green with vodka, elderflower liqueur, arugula juice, serrano, cilantro, lemon, simple syrup and lemon marmalade.
While reservations aren't required to visit, the seating arrangements will be managed by a host to keep space between customers. Of course you can still get to-go bottles, cocktails and food from the garage window on the patio. While the hours may change, currently you can visit from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Nearby, Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse (3636 Chestnut Place) has also reopened from 3 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. on weekends. Instead of lining up at the bar, now the space features an outdoor patio to keep people properly distanced. For now, while safety procedures are in place, all food and drink must be brought to your table by a server.
But, hey, forget the pandemic for a minute and order a flight of five tasters of small-batch booze including rum, gin and whiskey. Then chase it down with wood-fired pizzas and appetizers made in the distillery's own, on-premises kitchen.
In LoHi, Mythology Distillery (3622 Tejon Street) has also relaunched its tasting room, with hours from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is room for groups of up to eight people inside the distillery and on the patio, which has floor-to-ceiling doors the venue plans to leave open at all times. You can choose spirits by the flight or from the new summer menu, with drinks such as a peppered mango tiki cocktail made with rum and black-pepper syrup.
To eat, there are cheeseburgers and bratwursts grilled right there, both for dine-in and takeout. You can also take cocktails and bottles home. "We’ll continue selling cocktail kits, which include a bottle of Mythology spirits plus the necessary citrus, simple syrup and garnishments to make twelve to sixteen cocktails at home," says founder Scott Yeates. "The to-go cocktail kits have been really successful for us, so I anticipate that continuing long-term."
Denver Distillery (244 South Broadway) is also now open, says general manager Chris Anderson-Tarver. Right now, you can enjoy a flight of rum, bourbon, white whiskey and apple pie moonshine, along with hand pies from Tip Top Savory Pies, which the distillery buys from the Lafayette shop and reheats on demand. The space is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Head to Golden for a taste of State 38 Distilling (400 Corporate Circle B, Golden) where staff has roped off bar stools and chairs and scaled back seating options while sanitizing like crazy and providing masked service. Hand sanitizer is available for customers to use before they nibble on simple snacks such as ranch-dill pretzels, chips and salsa, and pizza ordered from Bono's Italian Restaurant nearby. Visit from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Tours are still off the table, but guests can get booze and cocktail kits to go.
Stranahan's (200 South Kalamath Street) is open for visitors, but instead of popping in for a sample of Colorado whiskey, visitors must reserve a tasting time online. Each $30 guided tasting is offered at 2 and 6 p.m. daily, and lasts around 45 minutes. There are no tours at this time, but you can get cocktails to go or even take the weekly two-hour cocktail class and start shaking up your own.
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For something unique, visit the two-year-old Colorado Sake Co. at 3559 Larimer Street in RiNo. It's not a distillery (the process is closer to brewing beer than distilling spirits), but the vibe is similar to that of distillery tasting rooms, with flights of house-brewed sakes in various styles and flavors. And during the coronavirus shutdown, the sake company added a sushi kitchen called Denver Sushi House, helmed by chef Taylor West. The chef has been offering online sushi-making classes with sushi and sake kits delivered to your home, and the partnership worked so well that the two companies have made it permanent, so you'll have a food option when you visit.
While many distilleries are welcoming guests back into their tasting rooms, others aren't quite ready. "We have reopened our tasting room for pick-up bottle sales only at this time, and we're seeing a very good response from folks looking to restock their liquor cabinets," says Steve Kurowski, marketing director of Laws Whiskey House at 1420 South Acoma Street, which has decided to stick to this method of distribution for now. "Our tasting room is just too small for safe social distancing."
Leopold Bros., at 5285 Joliet Street, is also keeping its tasting room closed for now, but is looking at how things will shape up in July. For now, you'll have to stock up on Leopold Bros. spirits at liquor stores, since the distillery isn't selling bottles to go. On the other hand, Rising Sun Distillery, at 1330 Zuni Street, is maintaining takeout sales of bottles and cocktails while its tasting room remains closed.