|Stranahan's tasting room|
From my former students who live in Denver and other sources, I've only heard good things about the Stranahan's Whiskey tour. Their popularity would support my evidence, so sign up well in advance on the website. I was quite excited since this was my very first distillery tour. Akin to brewing, much of the basic information is similar but it's still fun to play and learn the differences.
Stranahan's is owned by the same folks as Flying Dog, starting as a side project in the Blake Street location. Now, it has moved to the former brewhouse of the defunct Heavenly Daze Brewery and Grill with the new restaurant called the Rackhouse Pub.
We were about 30 min early for the first tour at 10 am, but the doors were open and they let us hang out in the tasting room on a massive leather couch that's so big, I felt like a little kid sitting on it. Barrel theme for the tasting counter and standing tables—even one with a saddle. Hanging out, the angel's share of the malt whiskey permeates the room, heightening the senses for the actual tour.
This first distillery in Colorado started with 5 barrels a week and now is up to 45 barrels of all malt whiskey. Lots of distilling details that I will let the reader find out on the tour of how they turn an 8% nut brown ale base into 110 proof whiskey.
For me, the barrel room is the most interesting. Stranahan's whiskey is aged five years max in the barrel and they are two years from an expansion because they are short of five year stock. However, the good news is they already own the block around the distillery, so they have room for a planned future expansion. A misting system regulates the humidity of the cellar to keep the $30,000 worth of whiskey in each barrel in proper condition. Stacks of the beautifully aging barrels were just fun to walk through. All of the Stranahan bottles are filled by volunteers with free beers (2), pizza and a bottle as payment; locals can add themselves to the long list of volunteers.
The very friendly tour guide led us through samples of whiskey, teaching the niceties as we sample straight up and cutting with water—an enlightening and interesting tasting that was clearly designed to make sure the whiskey was fully appreciated by the many tour members who would soon be buying bottles for home.
Overall, especially when combined with lunch afterwards at the Rackhouse Pub, this tour is worth the effort of the advanced reservations and the short trek from the downtown area. We drove since we were making the transfer to our hotel in downtown Denver, but there's public transportation that can get you there with a bit of walking.