Beer Man

Funkwerks produces a special barrel-aged beer for Mile High Wine & Spirits

More and more, breweries in Colorado are collaborating on new beers with each other, with chefs and restauranteurs, or even -- gasp -- bloggers. But Funkwerks Brewing in Fort Collins has made a new beer for a single liquor store: Mile High Wine and Spirits.

The Lakewood bottle shop, located at 435 South Vance Street, next to the Belmar Whole Foods, was one of the first to carry beers made by Funkwerks, which opened in late 2010 and specializes in saisons, says Mile High beer program manager Andre Dimattia. Because of that relationship, "we got to a point of asking them if they might have time to possibly work on an exclusive, collaborative beer."

They did, and the beer (which will be available to sample on Saturday) -- a barrel-aged saison called Solstice -- is based on one of Mile High's other specialties: bourbon

The Sazerac Company in Louisiana allows some big liquor stores choose which barrels of Buffalo Trace bourbon get bottled for their store. Then, once the stores gets the shipment, Sazerac sends along the barrels as well.

"We always have at least two different barrel select bourbons that the entire staff took part in choosing. With these programs, we not only get all of one particular barrel's worth of whiskey but also the empty oak cask. Instead of letting them dry and fall to splinters, we send them off to some of our friends in breweries," Dimattia says.

So Mile High gave the barrels, one Buffalo Trace and one Eagle Rare, to Funkwerks, which used them to age a saison with cocoa nibs for two months. The contents were then blended together and mixed with a little of the base beer. The result is a structured brew that has "an oak focus without being too bourbon heavy and boozy," Dimattia says. And it retains "the distinct yeasty flavor that all of Funkwerk's beers have."

Mile High had forty of cases of the beer, which retails for $13.99 a bottle, and is now down to about twenty. The store will hold a tasting on Saturday, February 18, from 3 to 6 p.m.; there's a chance that a brewery representative may be on hand.

Last year, Mile High sent a barrel to Golden City Brewery, in Golden, bottling up a beer for the store called Zeke's Belly Up.

"We're always interested in doing these innovative things and working with breweries to do something special so we can keep bringing people to Lakewood," Dimattia says.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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