The other alchemists

Innaugural Craft Distillers Festival is a go

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Stout Month. Sourfest. Rocket in My Beer Fest (yes, that’s a real thing). Even when they’re almost comically hyper-specific, Colorado isn’t exactly short on beer festivals. And though, years ago, Joanne Knipmeyer used to help stage one of those beer events in Vail, the multitude of them is a big part of why when Knipmeyer, a Boulder County Fair volunteer, was brainstorming events to stage at this year’s fair she decided to go another direction: distilling.

“There’s already a lot of craft beer events in the summer in Boulder County,” she says. “So I went to the Fair Board and said, ‘We could really be ahead of the curve on this one.’” Knipmeyer says that even when she was just pitching the idea, she already had a half-dozen local distillers ready to help.

A few months later, it’s all happening. The inaugural Craft Distillers Festival will go down at the Boulder County Fairground on Saturday, Aug. 9 from 1-5 p.m.

Knipmeyer says that Colorado has just over 50 “quote unquote distillers,” though not all of their facilities are fully-operational and open just yet. That number is in the high 30s.

But Knipmeyer says not all of them are truly local operations.

“Only about half of Colorado distilleries are doing this true grain to glass,” she says.

Those grain-to-glass or fruit-toroot distillers — those that use locally sourced ingredients, not just finalize the process here in Colorado — are the ones that the festival is putting on display.

“For us, it was a much better tie-in to the fair, because we’re 4-H and FFA,” says Knipmeyer.

Knipmeyer had 16 distilleries on board for the festival when she spoke to Boulder Weekly, and said there may be more by go-time.

“I keep hearing from more,” she says.

Beer fest aficionados will probably recognize the format of the Craft Distiller’s Festival: A ticket price at the door will get you a commemorative tasting glass for all the hooch, the portions will be tasting-size instead of “getting hammered and telling your friends what you really think of them” size, and local distilleries will be showing off some specially-made cocktails as well as serving neat. Attendees can vote on their favorite cocktail.

Black Canyon, 303 Vodka and Roundhouse Spirits are all on the bill among others.

In addition, the festival will provide educational workshops on the craft of distilling and the art of tasting.

“It should help improve palates,” says Knipmeyer.

Tickets are $40 (or currently two for $55 on Groupon). Knipmeyer says all of the money raised by this event will go back into keeping general admission at the fair free.

Get more information or purchase tickets at