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DSTILL grows with craft distillery movement

There are now more than 70 licensed distillers in Colorado, including such Denver standouts as Laws Whiskey House to Leopold Bros. DSTILL, an annual celebration of craft spirits in Denver in its third year, is mirroring the industry's growth.

"DSTILL is a platform that brings people together," says Chuck Sullivan of Something Independent, founder of the week-long event. "The heart and soul of the programming is with with the craft-distilling community both in Colorado and nationally." 

In 2015, the April 16 showcase, where 49 craft distillers participating from across the country poured tastes of their spirits, was the most popular event, drawing more than 1,000 people.

"It is distillers and bartenders and those craft spirit enthusiasts from every on point on the compass. I think there is a great opportunity throughout the week for distillers to connect in a lot of different ways both with consumer and industry," Sullivan adds.

This year's event expanded to include a DSTILL Rocks, a music event at the Bluebird Theater with Nathaniel Rateliff and Paper Bird, as well as what Sullivan calls pop-up bars showcasing spirits at Union Station. Both of which were new events for the multiday event.

"It's safe to say the DSTILL Rocks Concert will become a main staple event of DSTILL each year," Sullivan says. He explains that all of the ticketed events of the conference were sold out this year. "That is indicative of the story of DSTILL and how it has evolved to be a serious celebration of the American craft spirit."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Tonix brings fresh flavor to an old staple

If you've ever tasted store-bought tonic water, you've probably used the quinine-laced stuff to make a gin and tonic. But you've probably never enjoyed drinking tonic water on its own. Denver's Tonix is changing that.

The syrup is made in Denver with cinchona bark from South America, as were the original tonic waters that were developed to help combat malaria in the 1840s. The bark gives the concentrate its distinctive ruddy color.

Since it's a concentrate, imbibers can tweak the flavor by adding more or less to a drink, whether they're using soda water or not, explains Tonix founder Travis Gilbert. Also it's shelf stable, so it won't go bad after it's opened.

"I love gin and I love gin and tonics," Gilbert says. His late father-in-law introduced him to gin and tonics. "The first thing he asked me was if I wanted one."

"I was disappointed with the tonics on the market," Gilbert says. "And I thought: 'If there's not anything on the market, why not make it on my own.'" He explains that there are a few craft tonics available and a few craft tonic concentrates available as well. But he developed Tonix to be a bit more versatile.

The company recently had a launch party where it introduced the syrup to potential buyers: restaurants, liquor stores and bars. Already some local companies like Nooch Vegan Market, Bear Creek Distillery, Hugo's Colorado Beer & Spirits and Grandma's House Brewery are carrying and using the copper-colored concentrate.

Tonix is currently only selling the concentrate. However, Gilbert anticipates making a ready-to-drink tonic water for sale.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Bear Creek Distillery wins awards with unique take on noble spirits

Just off Broadway in the Overland neighborhood, Bear Creek Distillery is a new operation -- its whiskeys haven't even had a full year to age yet -- but its spirits are already winning awards.

In March, Bear Creek Distillery won three awards at the Denver International Spirits Competition, an event that attracted companies as big as Beam Suntory (makers of Jim Beam and its family of products). But Bear Creek took home the gold in the Vodka Potato category with its 100 percent Wheat Vodka, and two silvers in the Vodka Rye and Rum White categories.

"Our vodkas are sort of unique because we make grain-specific vodka," explains co-founder Jay Johnson. "Typically a vodka off the shelf you'll find are mixed grain or potato. Potato vodkas are relatively common. It is relatively uncommon to find a vodka that is 100 percent wheat or 100 percent rye," he says of the award-winning spirits.

The Silver Rum, which isn't aged, also won an award at the show. "Rum is easy to make. It's ingredients are easy to clean up, you can get it bottled within a month," Johnson says. In fact, vodka is harder to make because it has to be distilled to such a high proof. "It has a to be 190 proof," he says.

These spirits are just the start for the nascent distillery. "We hope to release our Silver Rum that has been aged in used Wild Turkey barrels, and then we also do a house-infused spiced rum," Johnson explains. "We mirror our vodka with a rye whiskey that we hope to have available by the holidays or in the beginning of the year for our tasting room. That goes the same for our wheat whiskey. Our bourbon probably won't ready until 2017."

That's because of the nature of spirits like whiskey. They don't have a set completion date and need to mature at their own pace. While some distillers are importing spirits from other states to age or blend here in Colorado, that's not the case with Bear Creek.

"We do everything grain to glass right here in our facility off Broadway," Johnson says. "I understand the lure of it doing it the other way . . . but we do things as genuinely as possible, so we're going to bite the bullet and battle father time until the bourbon is ready and the whiskey is as well. In my opinion, that's the right way to do things."

Since it's so new, the distillery doesn't yet have extensive retail distribution, but the tasting room is just the place for quaffs and cocktails. "For all intents and purposes, it's a bar, but we can only serve liquor with things that we've made," Johnson says. That means no store-bought bitters, cordials or vermouth. "We have to get really creative with fresh juices and herbs and things like that. We've gotten really good at recreating cocktails with things that we're allowed to use."

The tasting room is open from Thursday to Saturday. During the rest of the week, Johnson and the crew are busy making more spirits and tending to those that are aging.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Aquaponics offering farming/fishery classes

For those looking to take their gardening skills to a whole new level there's aquaponics, a method of farming using aquaculture and hydroponics to grow both fish and food.

Sound confusing? It's a little more complicated than throwing seeds in the ground and watering them, but the mixed farming method significantly reduces water use and produces much more food in a small space. That's why Colorado Aquaponics is offering classes this spring to help people understand the benefits and opportunities such systems offer.

Basically, the fish waste in the system provide nutrients for the plants in the system., and the plants absorb the nutrients in the water and filter it for the fish.

The company is offering classes to help people understand and learn how to launch their own system in Denver from April 23-26 and again this fall from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1. The Denver-based company, which operates Flourish Farms at The GrowHaus, will also offer classes in California and Florida this year though partner Green Acre Aquaponics, says Flourish Farm Manager, Aquaponics Guru and Training Master Tawnya Sawyer.

"Colorado Aquaponics has offered workshops for home and hobby aquaponic enthusiasts since 2010," Sawyer says. "We have taught the Aquaponic Farming Course in Denver, Florida and California with our business partner, Green Acre Aquaponics, since 2012."

The four-day course costs $1,295, however it falls to $1,195 per person if multiple people from the same group join. In addition to the classes, students receive a detailed course workbook, design plans, and variety of online spreadsheets, log files and related resources, Sawyer adds. "Colorado Aquaponics offers support through consulting services, feasibility studies, site planning, business planning, crop rotations, vendor relationships and the like to help future farmers get up and running successfully," she says. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Smart Cookie's food trikes for dogs hit streets in Denver

Food carts are going to the dogs with Denver's Smart Cookie. The company is bringing its treats to Colorado's dogs with two trikes.

With the approach of spring, farmers' markets and all the fun events that spring brings, Smart Cookie is planning on making sure your best buddy gets the same treatment you do by being at the same events. The company's trikes will be at breweries, parks and events throughout Colorado. Smart Cookie also gives dog owners a chance to customize and order their snacks and delivered to their door.

Smart Cookie's menu of healthy, human-grade ingredients allows it to create a box of treats for every dog. Customers can select a protein, carbohydrate, and fruit and veggie combination for their dog's treats, according to Smart Cookie. "We hand-make everything ourselves," says Smart Cookie Owner Bri Bradley. "We just built a commercial kitchen." She explains that the company even uses some local ingredients in its treats like spent grains from local breweries.

The company also makes Rabbit Jerky, which the company says is a completely hypoallergenic option. It also offers Barking Blends called The Survivor, The Sports Dog and The Prima Dogna.

Smart Cookie launched in 2012, according to Bradley. "We started the cart in April 2013 as a sort of food truck for dogs." Now the company uses the trikes for community events as far south as Parker and as far north as Boulder and Steamboat Springs. You can check out where they'll be on their calendar, but Bradley says you can also find them at parks and other places throughout the spring and into the fall. "It kind of depends on the calendar. We'll also go to a park and set up shop."

In the meantime, Smart Cookie products are also available in boutique pet stores and will also be at markets in Cherry Creek, Golden, Parker, Stapleton, Greenwood Village and City Park, Bradley says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

The Urban Farm Co. introduces "The Garden Club"

The Urban Farm Co. has been helping Denverites and people along the Front Range  build gardens since 2011. Now the company is offering a new gardening program called The Garden Club to help people learn how to grow in Colorado.

"The idea is the more we can help people, the more they will tell their friends about what we're doing, whether or not they want to garden," says Urban Farm CEO Bryant Mason. "We're trying to reach out to people with a couple of simple gardening tips."

The company informally launched the new set of tools to its existing customers first, according to Mason. "We have about 150 people signed up already."

Those former customers are among the more than 400 people that Urban Farm has built gardens for since launching in 2011. Those gardens start at $350 for a four-foot square boxed garden, their proprietary soil mix, drip systems and other features. The company gets most of its organic plants and transplants from Gulley Greenhouse & Garden Center in Fort Collins, Mason adds.

The company has had a high rate of retention since launching, according to Mason. "Probably 40 percent to 50 percent come back to us to do planting or something like that," he says. "For the majority, the initial the purchase is the main thing, then 40 percent to 50 percent come back for year two. They might want a cold frame or something else for the garden."

Such businesses often expand their customer base on referrals, which Mason says has worked for his company. The resources offered by the new garden club, could help increase referral business. "The biggest intention is developing sort of a long-term resource for front range gardeners. It's a very indirect approach but the more value and valuable information we can put out the more likely people will find us via referrals."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver-made Bambool base layers fuse bamboo and wool

Outdoor sports enthusiasts know a great base layer can make or break a day in the outdoors. It can also make or break your day après adventure -- especially if your base layer reeks from all of your sweat. That's why a good base layer must conduct sweat, retain warmth, and hopefully not trap odors. Bambool is a startup manufacturing hybrid base layers in Denver designed to be more comfortable and last longer.

Craig and Jessica Wood, a husband and wife team in Vail, started Bambool in 2013. They successfully funded the company a Kickstarter campaign in fall of 2014 to launch their first products, a 3/4-length pant and a long-sleeve top, this year. They're already thinking about expanding with new pieces including developing pieces for the summer, according to spokesperson Amy Regnier.

The base layers are a patent-pending hybrid of merino wool and bamboo. "First and foremost they are sourced from renewable fibers," Regnier says. "It's important to us to have a sustainable product and bamboo is a self-sustaining, fast-growing plant."

"Bamboo is anti-bacterial. It helps keep you odor-free," Regnier explains. "Synthetics and cotton can be a little smelly."

It's true: Try wearing a cotton shirt for a week -- even after washing it, the odor may never come out. "Bamboo fabric in general also is extremely soft and your getting the warmth from the wool and the softness from the bamboo," Regnier says. "They are moisture wicking and keep you dryer than a wool blend."

The initial clothes target skiers and snowboarders. The 3/4-length pants were designed so that they won't add bulk under ski boots and socks. The zippers on the shirts have a zipper cage so they don't irritate the skin or pull on chest hair.

Bambool is a Vail-based company, but it partnered with Denver's SansUSA to manufacture their designs. SansUSA has already produced the first run of Bambool's base layers and also produces clothes for other Denver-based companies like Icelantic.

At this point the easiest place to find Bambool's clothes, which currently start at $79.99 is online via their website. They're also available through Garage Grown Gear, at the Amazon store and some other places, according to Regnier. At this point, they're only available in one brick-and-mortar store, the Vitality Center at Vail.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Famous Beard Oil Co. makes beards shine

Over the past few years, there's been a palpable explosion of facial hair across the world, going so far as to inspire the report, "Negative Frequency Dependent Variation in Male Facial Hair." That report, which appeared in the journal, Biology Letters, in April 2014, was produced by researcher at Australia's University of New South Wales. It looked at whether we've reached "peak beard" the moment when beards become less attractive because of their ubiquity in society.

Eric Lough, founder of Famous Beard Co., doesn't think that's happened. Recently he launched a line of boutique, handcrafted beard oils to help condition beards to make them easier to manage and look and feel healthier. The catalog includes eight scents as well as Silky Leg Oil for women.

"Beard oil has been around for many years, but many more men are adding this wonderful grooming tool to their daily use," Lough says. "I believe that the demand for beard oil is higher now than it was a few years ago. Beards have become very popular among the men of Denver as well as other cities."

"Famous Beard Oils are meant to hydrate and soften the beard, mustache or goatee by bringing back the natural oils that are depleted after washing the face," Lough says. The oils are primarily intended as a beard conditioner, he adds, but "they can be used for pre-shaves or aftershaves as well or just an all-around skin moisturizer. They also absorb into the skin quickly without feeling greasy. I've had male and female customers buy my beard oils for many uses, not just for facial hair."

The beard oil is currently available at LoHi's Sol Shine and online. "I've only been up and running for about four months and things are moving very quickly," Lough says. He's moving into the U.K. market and looking at a number of other retail accounts. Lough plans to table at farmer's markets in Denver starting with the Horseshoe Market on May 9.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

IndiCard launches app for service employee discounts

Bartenders, waiters, hairstylists and others in the service industry can sometimes get service industry discounts, but knowing which ones offer discounts to their fellow service workers can be difficult. IndiCard is working to make it easier.

The company, which launched with plastic cards showing service employees' eligibility, has now launched as an app for iOS and Android devices. The company launched the app after talking with users about how to make it easier to use the card, says IndiCard co-founder Braden Holt. "Now you don't have to worry about remembering a card when you're out."

The app also has other benefits. It can geolocate which businesses are nearby that offer service employee discounts, Holt says. With 120 companies in Denver and 160 in Chicago that participate, it can be hard to remember what's close by for good deal. In those two markets -- currently its only two -- the app already has 4,500 users, according to Holt.

Right now IndiCard is free for users employed in service industry positions and at partner locations. But Holt says a monthly membership fee is likely coming. He anticipates it will be a few dollars a month and will roll out by spring 2015.

To participate in the program people must be able to prove they work in the service industry -- particularly because the discounts can sometimes be high. This can be a pay stub from a company or a call to an employer or manager to prove the person does work there, Holt says.

People who work in food, drinks, gym, salon, health, retail and transportation are eligible to apply for the card.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Black Project Spontaneous Ales debuts two wild ales

There are open fermentation beers, then there are wild beers, that's what Black Project Spontaneous Ales is into, letting its beers be inoculated purely by the wild yeasts and microbes that travel in the air, creating beers that are wholly unique in flavor. As of Feb. 15 from Former Future Brewing Company, the Black Project's wild beers are available in bottles for the first time.

"We expose our wort while still boiling, to the outside air to cool overnight on our roof," says James Howat, co-founder of Former Future and Black Project. "The next morning we put this wort into a barrel or other closed-top vessel and wait for fermentation to start." It can sometimes take four to 10 days for the very small amount of microbes from the air to multiply to a point where the wort is actually being fermented at an appreciable level, he adds, "so our beers are made via open, spontaneous inoculation but closed fermentation."

While these types of beer are produced in Belgium and the U.K. and have been for centuries, there aren't many breweries in the U.S. making them. "To my knowledge, we are the only brewery in Colorado to release a beer made using a coolship and completely spontaneous fermentation," Howat says. The coolship is the open vessel designed to allow the wort to cool and be inoculated by the air at a certain rate.

"Finding out what a small population of wild-caught microbes are going to do with a wort I design is truly my favorite part of brewing and is essentially why Black Project exists," Howat says. "Beers that we intend to eventually sell year-round we can blend and do a variety of things to make sure that the beers are always pretty similar, but even then there will be difference."

The company, a side project of Former Future, has already made a buzz. It debuted Flyby, its coolship spontaneous sour ale, at the Great American Beer Festival in October 2014 and won a bronze medal in the wild ale category. On Sun. Feb. 15, the young company is selling that as well as Jumpseat, a dry-hopped wild ale, at 2 p.m. at Former Future (1290 S. Broadway).

Only 48 750-milliliter bottles of Flyby are available at $35 a bottle, and 120 bottles of Jumpseat are available at $22 a bottle. "These beers are taking an average of 6 months to be ready," Howat says. "So we can't just make more right away just because the demand is so insane," he explains.

The nascent company, which started brewing in February 2014, is already preparing to expand. Howat says there will be as many as five releases between March and September, two with about 2,500 bottles and the others will be in the triple-digit range.

Given the experimental nature of coolship brewing -- 20 percent of the barrels could fail -- and the lengthy time it takes to brew the beer, Howat says he's thinking five years ahead to keep up with future demand.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Ice-O-Matic debuts ice makers that make bigger cubes for craft cocktails

Denver's Ice-O-Matic is getting into the craft cocktail industry with its Grande Cube ice vending machines for restaurants and bars. The new machines create larger ice cubes to meet the desires of customers at venues that want higher-quality cocktails.

Ice-O-Matic will debut the new line of ice cube makers at The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Show at the Anaheim Convention Center in California from Feb. 19 through Feb. 21.

"The Grande is our first venture into the large cube market. We are hoping for high demand," says Ice-O-Matic's Director of Marketing Scott DeShetler. "Our research tells us it is the preferable format in South America and Europe and is quickly gaining in popularity in North America with fine dining, cocktail lounges, and nightclubs."

The new machines produce ice cubes that are 1 1/4" wide, 1 1/8" deep and 7/8" tall. The machines can produce up to 875 pounds of ice a day. The U.S. version is Energy Star rated. Both versions are 30 inches wide.

While the company is making larger format ice cubes with the new machines, they're not intended to replace the handcrafted ice that is in use at some speakeasy-type bars and lounges now. "Our cube is very clear which is a function of the evaporator and the quality of water being frozen. It is not artisanal ice however, but rather a large cube for the masses," DeShetler says.

"When compared on a cost-per-pound of ice produced basis this machine is in line with the rest of the Ice-O-Matic line," DeShelter explains. "It is less costly than some of our competitors, Energy Star rated for efficient operation, and far more reliable and cost effective to run."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Parametrix 3D-prints Denver skyline

Parametrix is a Denver startup making printed 3D products like pots and practical items like replacement lids for Nalgene bottles.

Josh and Haley Goldstein, husband and wife and architect and graphic designer, respectively, own the company. Josh makes the designs using algorithmic scripts and his wife designs the packaging and is doing the marketing.

Parametrix's 3D-printed lifestyle products are the first of their kind to make it into I Heart Denver. Parametrix also offers the design files for sale as well, allowing others to print their own items based on Josh's scripts with the appropriate software and a 3D printer.

"We were not the first ones to approach them with 3D-printed products," Josh says. "We managed to impress them . . . . Our products have resonated and we can't keep up with demand."

"The I Heart Denver store has really broadened our reach, and we're proud to partner with them to get our products out there," Josh says. While the company also offers digital files of the scripts, it hasn't taken off yet. "More people need to buy 3D printers first," he says.

Currently they have a modest line of products for sale, but there are more on the way. "We actually have over 30 products designed that we use in our Denver condo, but since it's just my wife and I working on this stuff, finding the time to photograph and market them has been tough," Goldstein says. "We will be releasing some products for the kitchen, as well as some new Denver-themed products. We also dedicate some time to updating existing designs -- adding buildings and refining the Denver Cityscape product, as well as redesigning and improving other products like the planter."

While the couple are building their company, they also still have day jobs. Haley works with a telecommunications firm and Josh an architecture firm. He's used their printer to produce some pieces for his firm, but most of the work he's enjoyed doing has been in industrial design. "I am trying to build enough interest in 3D printing to convince the firm to get a machine of their own that I can help run."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Green Machine, an automated grow room system, funded through Kickstarter

Grow rooms, even personal grow rooms, for growing marijuana and other crops hydroponically indoors are expensive and can require a lot of attention.

A recently fully-funded Kickstarter project "How to Grow the Greenest Green" is a 14-week educational program that uses videos to show people how to build a grow room for about $600.

Similarly sized home grow kits -- about the size of a closet -- run for more than $2,000 and don’t include an educational component that guides users through the process of not only building the device, but using it to grow marijuana and other plants

Lucas Powell and Ryan Woltz say they developed the system and guides after finding scant information about developing home-based grow rooms for marijuana, even though it’s now legal in Colorado and other some other states. Best thing is the video-guided  courses and PDFs only cost $30 and it shows DIYers how to construct and build a fully automated system that interacts with smartphones.

"The technology aspect of our project is that we're teaching people how to turn a traditional cannabis home grow into an 'Internet of Things' connected device," Powell says.

The automated device is controlled by an Arduino computer and various sensors help monitor the plants growing in the closet-sized box. "Not only has a course like this never been offered before but this is actually the first marijuana cultivation course that has ever been put on Kickstarter," he adds.

Though the project already is fully funded already, people can participate in the Kickstarter before Jan. 6, 2015. In addition to the basic instructions, people can also get the Master Grower instructions, which includes more information about more advanced growing and automation techniques.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver's COjacks offer alternative currency for gifts

COjacks, the Denver-based, Colorado-centric currency that launched late this summer, will be accepted along with U.S currency at the Community Connect Trade Association and Main Street Chamber of West Denver's Holiday Trade Show and Event at SPACE Gallery at 400 Santa Fe Dr. on Thurs. Nov. 20 from 4 to 8 p.m.

"The event is about 50 percent trade and 50 percent cash," explains Jaime Cangemi, chief marketing officer for the Main Street Chamber in Denver. Cangemi says she expects about 50 vendors and 500 buyers.

Instead of being confined to cash, however, the event allows people to barter or trade for locally made goods. It's also an ideal opportunity for an alternative currency like COjacks. "Their hope is for us to roll it out to the Community Connect Trade members there," Cangemi says.

Consumers can get COjacks at an introductory rate of five for $4. The retailers that accept COjacks, among them Backstage Coffee and The GrowHaus accept them at a rate equivalent to a dollar.

"It's all about the independent businesses," Cangemi explains. "The concept is if you were a retail shop and I bought something with COjacks and you then have COjacks in possession you cannot come back to the COjacks office to trade it for cash so you'll go out and find a member of COjacks you can spend it with. That's where the dollar going further makes sense."

Pro-level businesses that accept COjacks for 30 percent or more of a customer's purchase can receive three COjacks for every $1 they choose to exchange for COjacks. Businesses that accept 10 percent of a sale in COjacks can exchange $1 for two COjacks. Since they can't trade them back for U.S. dollars, the accepting retailers must spend them with other participating retailers.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Gaijin 24886 brewing sake in Denver

Gaijin 24886 is brewing up its first batch of sake in Denver. The alcoholic rice beverage has made inroads into the U.S. through sushi restaurants, and Texas and Oregon operations have brought sake brewing stateside, but the company is the only one currently commercially brewing the Japanese beverage in Colorado. The company's first batch should be ready by about mid-December.

Co-owner and Master Brewer Marc Hughes used his employee identification number in Osaka, Japan, gaijin 24886, as the name for the brewery. He explains that 'gaijin' means foreigner.

"It started off as a hobby and I wanted to do something different," Hughes says. "Everybody else was making beer and all of the distilled spirits are explosive." He used snow from Leadville and other places, as well as ingredients like peach and cherry blossoms in his home brews. His friends and family enjoyed his homebrewed sake enough that he and co-owner Keith Kemp chose to take it to the next level and began brewing at Grandma's House Brewery on South Broadway earlier this year.

Though sake is a brewed beverage as opposed to a distilled spirit, Hughes likens the process to lagering rather than the traditional fermenting used for most beers, which means it takes longer to ferment because it's done at lower temperatures. For sake, that means more than a month of fermenting and conditioning. The process also allows for a higher alcohol content. "The alcohol content is anywhere in between 14 and 20 percent," he says.

Still the company is facing some initial hurdles. Sake is currently classified more like a wine although it's brewed like a beer. That means that it can't be sold alongside beers at Grandma's House, according to Hughes. "I don't know why it's that way. It just is," he says. However, Hughes and Kemp are exploring their options and talking with local retails and restaurants about stocking its beverages.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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