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Pikes Peak Lemonade Company opens innovative downtown taproom 

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click to enlarge Take a jar of concentrate home for a better value. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Take a jar of concentrate home for a better value.

There's space for innovative business models in food. But sometimes, a little education has to happen to onboard customers. Take Pikes Peak Lemonade Company, the Springs' first craft lemonade and limeade taproom.

Short version, the store offers — you guessed it — lemonade and limeade on tap. It's under just enough pressure to force it out of the keg, to be mixed with house-made infused syrups and served in Mason jars with decorative punched lids. Bring the jar and lid back for $1.50 off a refill (a fine waste reduction measure). And of course, it's all non-alcoholic.

It's a pretty novel business, even for owners Ches and Lisa DiDonato; Ches googled the concept and couldn't find anyone else doing it. The business started shortly after they moved here from Grand Junction around four years ago, to be closer to their grown daughters. Initially, the DiDonatos sold their wares on the farmers and vintage market circuit, a sensible fit. Sales were strong enough to justify the leap to a brick-and-mortar shop at the start of May.

All of their products conform to what consumers expect from craft drinks nowadays. The lemonades, limeades and house simple syrups are made with fresh fruit, most of it organic. Cane sugar informs all the syrups, and $6.50 gets you a jar of lemonade or limeade with whichever syrups you desire.

We opt for some of their most popular offerings: lavender lemonade and jalapeño limeade. The former hits a delicate balance between floral and herbaceous, with lemon playing a more reserved role. The latter brings plenty of spice and pepper flavor, pleasantly lime-spiked as well. Both drink pleasantly sweet and sour. We also try a cherry-ginger limeade, something made up on the spot and successfully refreshing, though a little more ginger zing would be nice.

They do offer a sugar-free lemonade sweetened with stevia, good with Monin sugar-free raspberry syrup, the only syrup they purchase. They also offer shrubs — syrups made from fruit, cane sugar and apple cider vinegar, here served with soda water. Both black cherry ginger and strawberry balsamic sip delicate and vinegar-tangy, but the strawberry reads cleaner, and the ginger's pretty tame.

By now, it should be clear we have zero issues with the quality of the product. But we're a little iffy on the value proposition. Even when bringing back the jar and lid, it's $5 per pint, as much as a non-happy-hour beer elsewhere. It's a bit hard to justify.

But there's a better value in buying their syrups and concentrates, shrub included, which are all kitchen multitaskers besides being cheaper per serving at home. Jalapeño limeade concentrate, for example, makes margarita night frat-bro easy and refreshing. Instructions on the 16-ounce jar recommend diluting to half a gallon with water before adding tequila, but it's still on the sweeter end, so the mix can stretch even further, we've found.

But it's a pity we've resorted to liquor to justify buying this stuff, because craft lemonades seem ready-made for people who don't drink alcohol. There's much of the fun and flavor freedom of cocktail mixology on display, with neither the potentially obtuse subtleties of third-wave coffee nor the Mayo Clinic-debunked wallet-devouring pseudoscience behind raw veggie juice (it's tasty but not better than just eating your veggies). If this innovation gives sober people and families the same gustatory joy that the craft movement has given booze-hounds, it's more than worth keeping around.

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