When you first see the name “Stranahan” in Downtown Denver, you might immediately start thinking of the former Denver Bronco’s Coach, Mike Shanahan, who led our beloved football team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1997 and 1998.
Now take a look again, and you’ll see the name of one of the most highly regarded small batch whiskeys, distilled right here in Denver, CO. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey was originally founded by George Stranahan and Jess Graber in 2004. Very much a Denver native, the distillery was originally located in Denver’s Ball Park neighborhood (near Blake Street and Coors Field) downtown until it was brought to a new facility just South of the Santa Fe Art District at 200 Kalamath Street. This original, industrial building has been revamped in order to serve as both the distillery and The Rackhouse Pub – serving beer, food and, of course, whiskey!
The new location is just perfect for the brand, as this neighborhood is enjoying much of the revitalization of both the Baker District and the Santa Fe Art District. The funky, artsy setting combined with the historical quality of the 1900’s brick buildings and Victorian houses, reflect what this award-winning whiskey company is all about: local, authentic and independent. And bringing more attractions like this to this area is helping to turn it into one of the more attractive, yet affordable Denver neighborhoods for the urban hipster. So it’s no coincidence that on First Friday Art Walk, there is a free shuttle service that will actually drop you off and pick you up at Stranahan’s/The Rackhouse Pub.
I must admit that I am not a whiskey connoisseur. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what the difference is between Scotch and Whiskey. But, I wanted to find out and taking a tour of Stranahan’s distillery seemed like the best way to do so (and did I mention free?). The distillery hosts free group tours of their facility 4 days/week. The distillery is small, so after viewing the custom-made Vendome copper stills and racks of 50 gallon American white oak whiskey barrels, we made it to the bottling and tasting room rather quickly (which made my husband very happy). And after a few complimentary shots of the good stuff, we wandered into The Rackhouse Pub for dinner and to continue the whiskey “tasting” – on our own dime of course.
Of course, I wouldn’t be blogging about Colorado’s first and only micro-distillery, if I hadn’t been impressed by a number of things that I learned on this tour, but allow me to summarize: I love that almost everything to do with the production of this whiskey comes from Colorado’s own resources. Stanahan’s uses Rocky Mountain water and Western Mountain grown barley as their primary ingredients. And, even though there’s plenty of demand, they only distribute Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey in the great state of Colorado. Even the packaging is done by volunteers from the local community. You can sign up for a 5-hour shift to hand bottle the prized whiskey in exchange for a free meal and a bottle of Stranahan’s (both of which can get a little pricey).
In an age where “Support local!” is the cry of the day, Stranahan’s is certainly making it’s mark. As Denver continues to evolve and emerge from its “Cow Town” reputation, I am grateful to discover these unique and local businesses that support our local economy and set us apart from the rest.