Steamboat Springs could become home to 2nd distillery |

Steamboat Springs could become home to 2nd distillery

Brad Christensen is hoping to pursue his dream of opening Routt Distillery on Captain Jack Drive in Steamboat Springs later this year.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For Brad Christensen, the dream of opening his own distillery started fermenting years ago when he was a graduate student at University of California Davis.

“My Ph.D was in geography, but I studied the wine industry, taking all the wine classes I could, and they also had a distillation program there,” Christensen said. “I did all the course work for that with the idea that I would put this on the back burner, and it might be something I would do in the future.”

For Christensen, and his wife, Libby, the “future” arrived when the family moved to Steamboat Springs in March of last year. She was hired as the family and consumer science and 4-H extension agent for the Routt County Extension Office, and it allowed Christensen an opportunity to move to a town he has always loved.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid, and my family owns a house here,” Christensen said.

Shortly after moving here, Christensen began looking for a place where he could open a distillery. The stills for his future business are currently being housed in his garage.

“I’ve been looking for space all over the city, “ Christensen said. “All of the live-work units being built in Steamboat Springs didn’t really work for me. The square footage and how they were laid out just wasn’t right.”

But a location at 975 Captain Jack Drive, which is owned by Jeff Kortas who uses the property as a storage yard for his business Alpine Masonry, was a good fit. It will allow Christensen to move forward on a 3,000-square-foot distillery, which will include a production area and a small tasting room and bathrooms on the front half of the property.

The business will be called Routt Distillery and will produce a single-malt whiskey made with Colorado-grown barley. Christensen said the facility will also produce vodka, gin and some different liqueurs based on locally foraged ingredients.

Christensen said he has just entered the city of Steamboat Springs’ planning process, but he is hoping he will be able to begin working on the distillery this summer in time to open for the Christmas holidays.

“We want to be digging in the ground, ideally, in a month,” Christenson said. “Whether or not we can get that through with the city depends, but I think we will definitely be building before the fall.”

Christensen said he is looking forward to making products that will be unique and represent the flavors of the area.

“For me, it’s wanting to be in an industry where I am able to be out there with farmers and helping them grow great barley that has a lot of good flavor to it one day, and then the next day, be in the distillery working with a lot of science there and trying to make great quality spirits,” Christensen said.

He said he wants to create a space where people can learn about the process of making spirits, tour the facility and have a chance to taste what he will be producing. But he said this will not be a typical bar.

“I don’t want to run a bar,” Christensen said. “I want to run a distillery, and I want people to come visit and taste these great spirits, but not necessarily stay for multiple hours. I want them to come in and experience it.”

He said he decided on the Captain Jack area because it’s close to town and easy for locals and visitors to ride their bikes or walk to.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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