Monday, August 19, 2019

Blackhat Distillery to pick up where Blue Fish left off

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Colorado Springs' newest distillery just announced its tentative opening, set for mid September.

Blackhat Distillery comes by way of the not-long-ago shuttering of Blue Fish Distillery.

"We heard they were closing," says co-owner Matt Bonno, and we came in before the lease was up and struck a deal with John and Ellen [Fisher] to purchase the business, including nine barrels of finished product, all their equipment, and their recipes." 

Bonno's name should be familiar from Boxing Brothers Ciderhouse (formerly Colorado Common), and he's partnered financially here with Joe Koscove of the Koscove Metal family as well as an accountant friend named David Varnum. But he's also brought in the talents of Allen Oliver (formerly of Cockpit Craft Distillery and Rocky Mountain Brewery) to be head distiller, as well as rockstar local bartender Montana Horsfall of Craft Cocktail Inc. to be Blackhat's director. 
COURTESY BLACKHAT DISTILLERY
  • Courtesy Blackhat Distillery
Bonno says the idea with Blackhat is to "build off what they had been doing and take that in our own direction." Hence the new name, which he says was built around the concept of people who changed history, "whether they were royals, rebels, outlaws, badasses, they always wore a black hat — whether that's a top hat, a bowler, a fur hat, a flat bill — it was worn by people doing and changing things. There's the idea of if you're a mover and a shaker, an innovator, then a black hat's for you. We're playing off that, the history that got us where we are."

As for the distillery's focus, it'll be on rums and agave spirits (like tequilas, but you can't call them that when you aren't making them in the proper area of Mexico). Which isn't to say there won't be a vodka and whiskies on the horizon: They're already aging product to become bourbon in two years.

Look for a 100-percent blackstrap molasses rum, Jamaican-style, as well as a Cuban-style sugarcane rum, plus barrel-aged and spiced rums. On the opening weeks, they plan to sell coconut, mango and pineapple-infused rums made out of the Blue Fish product they purchased. As for the blue agave spirits, expect both a pure Mexican-style sipping (not-) tequila as well as a mixed light and dark agave blended spirit, better for mixings, says Bonno.

Bonno says he plans to let Oliver guide the distillery's direction, but he's been able to be a sounding board on recipe development and help out with aspects such as ingredient-supply contacts, given his experience at his cidery. One cool tie-in, he says, is an upcoming traditional apple brandy, for which he's been able to help guide Oliver on making a great cider from which a great brandy can be distilled, he says. He brings a strong knowledge of fruit flavorings into alcohols.
Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director.
Oliver, meanwhile, is a bitters wizard, hear Horsfall tell it. He makes a diverse array of his own bitters, which Blackhat plans to help him develop into his own label for retail sale. She says anything she'll need in the tasting room for her cocktail creation, Oliver can make. (That's the way the liquor laws demand it be done anyway, in distilleries, which can't serve other brands' spirits and liqueurs.)

The shared vision, she explains, is that as a guest, if you enjoy your spirit sampling and then a cocktail, they'll be able to send you home with just about everything you need to make it, from their base spirit to the liqueur and bitters — like a to-go kit.

"Everything I'm about with Craft Cocktail Inc. [her business, which she'll continue to run, with Blackhat's promotional support] is teaching people how to make good cocktails at home," she says. "If it's not five ingredients or less I didn't do it right."

That said, she's planning for an approachable, "simplistic" menu, but also a special higher-end drink list that must be requested, she says. 

Blackhat hopes to launch by a target date of the weekend of Sept. 20-22, and keep regular hours: 3-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursdays; until 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; and 3-7 p.m. Sundays, tentatively. They'll likely have food trucks park on site (5745 Industrial Place, Suite A) on weekends. 
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Four summer sips at Brooklyn's on Boulder, plus 1,728 ways to make a gin and tonic

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Brooklyn's on Boulder launched its summer menu update in mid July, which will run into a yet-to-be-determined date in October.

As usual, that means the core menu of classic gin drinks stays untouched, but the house bartenders get to play with two menu pages (15 drinks this go-around) for seasonal inspirations. They invited us out to sample a drink from each of four sections of the summer menu.

Bar Manager Carlos Garcia reminded us how each season's menu-creation process takes about six weeks. The staff, including he and head bartender Philip Taylor, as well as bartender Robin Jones, will bring ideas to meetings for peer critique. It's all about making the best drink possible, inside a team atmosphere, he says. "We talk about checking your ego at the door. We ask each other 'What are you trying to achieve.'"

Jones started us off with a drink she conceived, named the Viva Havana, made with Lee Spirits Co. Dry Gin, coconut milk, orange liqueur, house Colorado tonic and lime juice.  She explained that the coconut milk was intended as a lighter cream element than what heavy cream brings to many cocktails, "and the coconut flavor really adds a lot," while the orange helps lift the citrus element without making the drink more sour. Undertones of lemongrass in the tonic, also made with aspen bark, add complexity. If you like piña coladas, this is for you.
Viva Havana. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Viva Havana.

Next up, Taylor says with each menu he likes to riff on one of his all-time favorite drinks, the Old Fashioned. What that looks like this go around is called the Chattanooga Manor, made with Winston Lee blended whiskey, angostura and orange bitters, allspice dram and an awesome house cola syrup. He says he modeled the drink after the idea of a Jack-and-Coke meets a rum Old Fashioned. Between the bright allspice notes and vibrant spicing of the cola syrup, which includes nutmeg and cinnamon, there's ample aroma and flavor to study, bookended by the whiskey and citrus factors.
Chattanooga Manor. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Chattanooga Manor.

Another Winston Lee whiskey drink presented by Garcia, the Rosa Fuerte, plays off a Manhattan, trying to usher it into the hot days of summer (of which we've had more than plenty lately). To him, that meant adding Lee's Creme de Rose liqueur for subtle floral notes atop the sweet vermouth and angostura bitters. That plays quite nicely, not too sweet but plenty suggestive and elegant with the pervasive flower essence.
Rosa Fuerte. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Rosa Fuerte.

Lastly, we enjoyed a dance with a drink called Pagan Poetry, concocted with Lee Dry Gin, Suze (gentian root), Calisaya liqueur (with cinchona, bitter orange peel, liquorish, elderberry and spices), Lee's Forbidden Fruit liqueur (made with white grapefruit, honey, and "a blend of spices"), and a smoked rosemary tincture. Thanks to a big rosemary sprig garnish, the aroma's superb, evocative of earth and forested land, that impression reinforced by the multitude of botanic elements and a clean bitterness that carries through and finishes crisp and fresh, like high-mountain air.
Pagan Poetry. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Pagan Poetry.

Before we depart, the crew lets us know about new happy hours (5-7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 4-5 p.m., Sunday) during which you can choose your own Gin & Tonic. What that looks like is a checklist menu featuring four gin styles, six tonic variants, and nine different garnishes (pick two per drink). So, for example, you might build a lavender gin with Q elderflower tonic topped with an orange wedge and cardamom. Or fiery Ginfuego mixed with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon, garnished with basil and pink peppercorns. You get the idea — it looks hella fun, and they say of the 1,728 possible combinations, they rarely see different guests build the same drink twice.
Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, Robin Jones and Carlos Garcia (left to right). - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Brooklyn's on Boulder bartenders Philip Taylor, Robin Jones and Carlos Garcia (left to right).
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Solar Roast Coffee's new Springs location a breath of fresh brew, and style

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 1:31 PM

Awesome wall murals by Pueblo artist Mathew Taylor. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Awesome wall murals by Pueblo artist Mathew Taylor.

Solar Roast Coffee finally opened its much-anticipated Colorado Springs location on Aug. 7, taking over a former Starbucks location on Tejon Street — yeah, up the street just a few blocks from the other Starbucks — yay for an independent eating a chain, for once, rather than the other way around!

Continue scrolling and reading below to check out the stylish space.
A summer special rose latte, made with Solar Roast's Aristotle Blend. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A summer special rose latte, made with Solar Roast's Aristotle Blend.

If you're new to Solar Roast, check out my original interview with brothers Mike and Dave Harkop back in early 2008, when they were still roasting literally using the sun's rays as part of a solar concentrator named Helios 4, composed of 800 IKEA mirrors focused on one point, which generated more than a thousand degrees of heat with which to roast.

You can still buy Solar Roast beans at Mountain Mama's or Natural Grocers, and soon Whole Foods, but to guarantee maximum freshness my money's on buying on site in the coffee shop. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • You can still buy Solar Roast beans at Mountain Mama's or Natural Grocers, and soon Whole Foods, but to guarantee maximum freshness my money's on buying on site in the coffee shop.

Today, the roasting process is different, as solar panels mounted atop the Pueblo roastery on 226 N. Main Street generate about 13 kilowatt hours of energy, says Mike Hartkop. He adds that the actual roasting process only utilizes 12 kilowatt hours, leaving more available to offset office and the coffeehouse's usage.

Jessica and Mike Hartkop, operations manager and owner, respectively. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Jessica and Mike Hartkop, operations manager and owner, respectively.

When I ask Mike if they have plans for more expansion, he says: "This has strained every relationship I've ever been in. This is it for now." He appears to only be half joking, or not at all, but says "it's fun to be here" and walk out the doors of a familiar coffee setup but into a new town. "Pueblo has been so great to us, and there's Puebloans everywhere — we stick together." (Right next door is Bingo Burger's Pueblo expansion, for example.)
Mathew Taylor is also a graffiti artist who goes by Refic, and is part of Pueblo's talented Creatures Crew. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mathew Taylor is also a graffiti artist who goes by Refic, and is part of Pueblo's talented Creatures Crew.

Another Pueblo person provided all the muralist work at this new location: Mathew Taylor, who the Indy has caught up with before, regarding his work with the Creatures Crew.

Let there be music! A records rack precedes the ordering counter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Let there be music! A records rack precedes the ordering counter.

Beyond the artwork on the walls, a records shelf adds more character to the coffee shop, allowing customers a chance to peruse labels while waiting for their drinks to pop up at the pickup counter.

Roasts available on site include rare barrel-aged coffees. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Roasts available on site include rare barrel-aged coffees.

All coffees sourced by Solar Roast are 100-percent organic, says Mike Hartkop. Learn more about the business from this recent Colorado Springs Business Journal article.
The facade shows a taste of what style awaits inside. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The facade shows a taste of what style awaits inside.

Indulge me this bit of self-satisfaction, but I'm overjoyed to see my 11-year-old article still posted on Solar Roast's walls, still getting to tell the story of the mad scientist Dave Hartkop.

"Our overall vision is ... to be a recognized brand and entity in the world of coffee," said Mike at the time. "That means being able to provide coffee to anyone in the world who wants it and following through with vision of solar roast using alternative energy for industry."
We always love to see our work represented by places we write about. I first met the Harkop brothers in early 2008, when they were still roasting on their wild Helios 4 machine, made from 800 IKEA mirrors that concentrated sunlight. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • We always love to see our work represented by places we write about. I first met the Harkop brothers in early 2008, when they were still roasting on their wild Helios 4 machine, made from 800 IKEA mirrors that concentrated sunlight.
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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Decadent Saint makes a case for sangria and spirit exploration

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 9:46 PM

MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Meet Michael Hasler, a winemaker from Australia with roughly four decades experience around the world. He's the owner of and winemaker at Decadent Saint, a Louisville, Colorado-based winery.

I met Hasler recently, randomly via an Airbnb experience, and I visited him later at his booth inside the early July Colorado Springs Art and Music Festival.

I confess I approached his "Ultimate Mixers" with a degree of skepticism, at-first thinking they sounded like a potential headache in a bottle, likely to be sappy and over-sweet, or maybe synthetic tasting.

But a short sampling later, I was totally hooked on them, anxious to play at home with some bottles I purchased. (Transparency note: Hasler threw in a jar of his newly launched Decadent Mud chocolate sauce for me to try.) Should you be interested in checking the products out, after watching the below video for a little more backstory via Hasler, they're available locally at many locations in the area.

The reason I'm choosing to write about the products here is because of how much they've impressed both me and many guests to my house in the last several weeks. They've also garnered critical acclaim and medals at competitions such as the Denver International Wine Competition and San Francisco International Competition (a 2016 Double Gold for the Spiced Mocha spiced dark chocolate wine).

As Hasler describes in the below video, all his concentrated wines are made with real fruit, unpasteurized and unfiltered as his liqueur-making process goes. Each 750ml bottle (20.5-percent ABV) makes up to a gallon of sangria by simply diluting with water and ice, or can be utilized as component to a wide variety of cocktails.

Overwhelmingly, our samplings at home have led to the passionfruit flavor being our clear favorite — we've added it to beer, made a simple sangria, and made the suggested passionfruit habanero margarita and passionfruit hard lemonade. I've even turned persnickety bartenders onto the products.

Decadent Saint's raspberry flavor makes a really lovely sangria, even if the base wine you're using under it isn't all that fine or fancy, says Hasler. We've been drinking it with a $12 bottle of an organic cabernet sauvignon.

We've played the least so far with the spiced black currant, mainly because those spices evoked a sense of fall time for me, and I just wasn't craving them in the midst of the hot summer days. But soon that time will arrive to explore them, in something like a black currant Arnold Palmer, which adds the Decadent Saint product to vodka and lemonade plus black tea — another variant for that bottle is a black currant mule with vodka, ginger beer and lime. 



Come dessert, the spiced mocha label contributes to a fine Colorado Bulldog or White Russian, but I've also enjoyed it just mixed with coconut milk. The 15-percent-ABV Decadent Mud is just that, made with fortified red wine, coconut cream, decaf coffee, maple syrup, black currants and the same proprietary spice blend that goes into the spiced mocha liqueur. It's reminiscent of Glühwein (mulled wine), with a faint clove and cinnamon essence. The mud spreads like Nutella and can go on just about anything, from toast to ice cream to fruit — admittedly we just keep dipping pinkie fingers in the jar.

So, yeah, this all might read like a damn commercial, but let's say that Decadent Saint impressed us enough that we felt compelled to share the word on the brand. It's a great Colorado spirit worth your attention — it absolutely caught ours. 
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