Tasting room opens doors; distiller hopes Steamboat has thirst for his spirits
When Routt Distillery invites the community into its new tasting room Friday, Aug. 19, it will be a dream come true for owner Brad Christensen, and the end of a nearly three-year journey to open the Steamboat Springs location.
“It’s nice to move on from having construction filling my brain to be able to really do what I set out to do,” Christensen said. “Distilling spirits, serving them and having people taste them.”
Christensen and Routt Distillery will officially start serving from 1-6 p.m. this Friday during the grand opening of the business at 975 Captain Jack Drive.
The location houses the packed column reflux still that is the heart of Routt Distillery’s production facility, which will specialize in gin, vodka and single malt whiskey. It also includes a 600-square-foot tasting room with an outside deck and a conference room upstairs, which is available for rent and can be used by nonprofits.
“We make everything here from grain to glass,” Christensen said. “So we get grain from southern Colorado … and some grain from the Front Range. We bring it up here. We mill it, ferment it, distill it and bottle it all here.”
The grand opening will include a tour of the distillery, along with gin and vodka tastings and a featured cocktail. The distillery will offer its Summer Gin, Winter Gin and a vodka for the event, in addition to a Tom Collins for those who want to try the spirits in a cocktail.
The tasting room will be open from 1-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday to start, but Christensen has hopes of expanding those hours in the future.
Christensen said that because of COVID-19, opening the Steamboat Springs-based distillery has been a bit of a challenge. He said the uncertainty around coronavirus as the pandemic unfolded made construction difficult, and then supply issues caused more issues getting the bottles and corks he needed.
“The construction budget blew up, and then there was uncertainty about getting crews in here to work,” Christensen said. “I took over most of the finishing work.”
He said working with contractor Keith Wilson was awesome and got a helping hand from his from his brother-in-law Dan Lemmer, who is also the graphic designer for Routt Distillery and created all the logos and labels, which include a 1920s map of Routt County that graces the bottles.
Christensen said he is focused on keeping his feet planted firmly in Colorado and finding local or regional producers for the grains and ingredients he needs to make his gin, vodka and whiskey. He is also working with Colby Townsend from Hayden Fresh Farm, who is feeding the spent grains to pigs and chickens.
Christensen said this is just the start, and he is hoping to ramp up the cocktails program as Routt Distillery expands the spirits it makes.
He is currently working on an absinthe and serviceberry bitter recipe, and he added that an agave spirit and rum will be available in the tasting room in the future.
“The idea here is that people come to taste our spirits, and they can get an idea of some of the cool cocktails you can make with our spirits and how to make them,” Christensen said. “But we also want to have our product in restaurants and liquor stores around town, so you can go there and have a nice cocktail after dinner.”
Christensen said agriculture products made locally and in Colorado will always be a focus of Routt Distillery.
“Colorado agriculture is important to us,” Christensen said. “We want to make sure that we use it, and we think we have great Colorado grain here to use. That grain is something no other states have, so we want to use that to our advantage, and eventually, I’m excited to make a Routt County single malt whiskey with the barley grown right here in our county.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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