The Brew

I know that when you long to travel to far off places, it’s hard to get excited about your day to day. So I created this series, called Local Adventure, to help inspire you to find some of those same adventures in your own backyard.

In your foreign travels you might have stopped into a local winery, distillery, or brewery along the way. And these are great places to experience the local culture and to get a feel for their heritage.

These tours usually take a half-day or so, and you might find yourself wandering the grounds of a beautiful landscape or listening to a fascinating story on the origin of the brew. But these experiences aren’t exclusive to far off places – we have just as much heritage in this arena. So why not find one in your backyard and turn it into your own local adventure?

the brew cover | observant nomad

Colorado is considered a western state and there’s nothing more western than whiskey. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey in Denver is a local micro-distillery that focuses on straight whiskey made with 100% Rocky Mountain barley and water.

Rachel, Rus and I decided to take a free tour on a Saturday which included a full facility tour, a tasting, and all with a personable guide throughout. It was the perfect choice for our local adventure.

the brew batch | observant nomad

the brew tun | observant nomad

the brew copper | observant nomad

the brew smile | observant nomad

Passion is contagious
It doesn’t matter if I’m in  a winery in Tuscany or a distillery in the Rocky Mountains, these craftsmen truly love what they do. I’m always so envious of how much brewmasters love their job and how they find joy in every part of it – even when they have to crawl into the stinky vats and clean them out, they don’t mind one bit.

These devoted people understand that the grimy stuff is part of the whole process, and makes the next batch even better. So try to soak up the rays of their infectious attitudes and see if you can channel your inner brewmaster with the most tedious of part of your work.

the brew moonshine | observant nomad

the brew pumps | observant nomad

Learn the story
Every brewery, winery, or distillery has a unique and great story to tell. From how they create their tasty beverages to why they use the barrels they do. Stranahan’s story started with a barn fire!

Hard to believe but after the fire, volunteer firefighter Jess Graber, and the barn owner George Stranahan kicked it off and bonded right away. Eventually they set out together to create a pure Colorado whiskey made with Rocky Mountain ingredients.

Another Stranahan’s story involves a gas pump. Traditionally when they’re transferring the liquor into the barrels for aging, someone had to watch each barrel and it was a time consuming process. There was also a risk for overflow and losing product.

Someone on the team was pumping gas one day and thought that would be a perfect device for what they needed. So they sent the manufacturer a letter (with a bottle of Stranahan’s of course) and had these specially made food grade gas pumps delivered to their door in less than a week.

the brew barrel side | observant nomad

the brew touch | observant nomad

Appreciate the details
Every detail makes a difference. For example most whiskey, including Stranahan’s regular batches, are aged in brand new white oak barrels. However, Stranahan’s crafts a special batch called Snowflake every year using old wine barrels from Spain instead. People in Colorado literally camp out the night before the release to get their hands on this stuff!

I also learned all about why they store barrels different ways. A barrel on it’s side is the traditional visual that comes to mind. This method was great for back in the old days of sea farers and shipyards when you would have to move barrels by hand. But now distilleries store them upright because it saves space and we have things called forklifts.

the brew barrel top | observant nomad

the brew pour | observant nomad

the brew glasses | observant nomad

Don’t be shy
The best part about vineyards, distilleries and breweries is how passionate these people are. They absolutely love their craft and if you’re taking a tour, they most likely want to share that passion with other people.

So don’t be shy when you’re there. If they need a volunteer, step up. Ask questions about them. Smile and throw yourself into their excitement. And if you want to try something not on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s rare that someone hasn’t tried to make my experience at these locations a special one.

the brew seat | observant nomad

the brew small glass | observant nomad

the brew smell | observant nomad

Use all your senses
Obviously since this experience falls under drinks & food, you’re going to be tasting something at some point. But make sure to not forget about your other senses. What does the brewery smell like? What do you hear in the vineyards? How does the masher in the distillery sound? Touch the oldest barrels in the storeroom. All these pieces weave together to really craft your experience.

Usually a tour will end with a tasting and if you’ve never done one, I highly suggest getting out there already. I feel like my appreciation for different wines and liquors have really evolved from these tastings. Besides noticing the different layers of flavors and notes that every other fancy person mentions, you’ll start learning what you like and what you don’t. And you might be able to order without a sommeliers help.

the brew stranahans | observant nomad

Photography by Rachel Ridings and Brianna Burton for Observant Nomad
Much thanks to Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey and Will for being such great hosts

What do you think?

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Nothing better than a boozy tour in my opinion! I love the idea of this series. I have a similar series on my blog called “weekender”. It truly has helped me put more effort into making the most of my weekends.


I love this piece!! Makes me wish I could drink whiskey – but it also makes me more than ever determined to visit the Isle of Skye with you in the future! Loads of love!!