While the Denver area is taken over by beer, there is a different kind of libation revolution going on in our neighbor to the north. Boulder is quickly and quietly becoming a craft distilling hub. Man cannot live on beer and wine alone so let’s take a trip to find out what’s happening in Boulder.
Roundhouse Spirits is not a new distillery. Founded by Alex Nelson, Roundhouse been around since 2008 and is Colorado’s sixth distillery license, but it started even farther north in Longmont before moving to its current location on the railroad tracks in Boulder. This craft distillery makes Gin and a Coffee Liquor. That may not seem like much, but when you only make a few things, you tend to make them very well. Roundhouse is no exception.
The story of Roundhouse began with Ted Palmer, who first learned the art of distilling at the age of 10 from his grandfather. When adulthood came calling, he traveled the world with the Navy and the Coast Guard, but when it came time to do something more settled, he went back to his childhood occupation and became a brewer. Palmer was Head Brewer at Pyramid Brewing in Seattle and Brewmaster at Bear Creek Brewing in Redmond both in Washington and then Plant Manager and Distiller at the Santa Monica Distillery in California. He returned to his native Colorado in join Roundhouse Spirits in 2009.
Palmer has very specific ideas about distilling. He calls his gin a New Western Style because it has the lowest juniper content a gin can have and still be called gin. It won the bronze medal at the 2012 Denver International Spirits Festival and is considered “Exceptional” by the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago. Palmer seeks far and wide to fine the best ingredients he can.
“The final product is most important,” he said emphatically. “Taste is what it’s all about! Not where your stuff comes from.” While the corn grain he starts with is from out of state, the junipers used are found nearby while other botanicals come from all over.
Roundhouse has a Barrel Aged Gin that is also rated “Exceptional” by the Beverage Tasting Institute. Palmer uses small new American Oak barrels and ages them from 10 to 15 months. Again, the length of time isn’t what is most important to him, but the taste that comes out. The barrels give the gin a golden color and Roundhouse regulars have taken to calling it Ginskey.
Their newest product is the Corretto Coffee Liqueur. Palmer uses organic free-trade beans specially selected by blind master roaster Gerry Leary at the Unseen Bean, only ten blocks from the distillery. Palmer uses a cold toddy process on the coffee and then adds a bit of vanilla and sugar.
“What you taste is what I put into it,” he says. Obviously it tastes like coffee, only it’s really amazing gourmet coffee. So much so that one might mistake it for the real thing. It’s tempting to put it in a mug in the morning.
The Roundhouse Distillery and Tasting Room are all in one big building in northwest Boulder. Take a tour of the distillery with Palmer and get a free tasting of all their products from Tasting Room Ambassador Kristine Wilkin. She also serves up the cocktails. Their most popular are the Gin and Tonic and the RH Martini, however, there is no vermouth in the martini. They also offer the Lemon Drop and the Lower Manhattan along with Coffee and Cream using the Corretto. As their website says, the cocktails will cost you, but the shuffleboard and foosball are free.
Roundhouse is currently working on a Jack-o-gin. Add some cream to it and it becomes as Wilkin says, “Pumpkin pie in a glass.” Palmer said it took him three years to perfect the recipe and it’s finally ready for consumption. Although the product is now available in the tasting room, it won’t be for sale in bottles until September 2013.
Roundhouse Spirits are available in restaurants and liquor stores all over Colorado as well as for sale in Maryland and Washington DC. For the rest of the US, Palmer suggests purchasing online. For those who can, visiting the distillery is the tastiest way to try and buy Roundhouse Spirits. Find them at 5311 Western Avenue, Suite 180. The tasting room is open Thursday through Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m.