Ten Fun Facts About Colorado's Booze Industry

Left Hand rolled out cans of Nitro Milk Stout this month.
Left Hand rolled out cans of Nitro Milk Stout this month. Left Hand Brewing
We all know that craft beer is big in Colorado; in fact, the state's beer industry contributed $3.07 billion to our economy in 2016 alone. But cider, wine and spirits are also developing a presence on the Front Range, in the Rocky Mountains and on the Western Slope. Here's some fun bar trivia you can share with friends next time you're sipping something locally made.

1. Left Hand Brewing started the nitro-beer movement in the States. The first nitrogenized beer was made by Guinness in Dublin, but the folks at this Longmont venue started adding gas, which imparts a creamy mouthfeel and lighter body, to its bottled Milk Stout in 2011.

2. John Hickenlooper first made a splash as a brewery owner, not in politics; he was one of the founders of the Wynkoop Brewing Company. The brewpub launched in downtown in 1988, long before LoDo was the hip neighborhood it is now. And today, of course, Hickenlooper is the governor of Colorado.

3. The Grand Valley and West Elks are the two highest wine regions in the United States.

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Denverites went nuts for Wynkoop's Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout.
4. Booze makers in the state have used green chiles, Palisade peaches and even Rocky Mountain oysters to flavor products from beer to whiskey to vodka.

5. To make vodka, Woody Creek Distillery revitalized the flavorful Rio Grande potato, a russet variety that was grown in the region decades ago.

6. Napa’s famous Stag’s Leap Cellars was founded by Warren Winiarski, who got his start making wine in the late 1960s at Denver’s Ivancie Cellars (which closed in 1975). He’d left Robert Mondavi Winery in 1968 in favor of making wine in Colorado, in the process rejuvenating the state’s wine industry.

7. The St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont is named after a type of apple that was plentiful in Colorado up until the late 1800s.

8. The oldest operating winery in the state is Plum Creek Winery, which opened in 1984.

Craft spirits from Distillery 291 in Colorado Springs.
9. Michael Myers, the owner of Distillery 291 in Colorado Springs, made his first still out of the photogravure plates that he used when he was a fashion photographer.

10. The first legal distillery to open in Colorado since Prohibition was Stranahan’s, in 2004.

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