Boulder's got its own slant on all things food and drink, and the town's homegrown brews, cocktails, spirits and wines below are no exception. With a focus on health, adventure and a love for the outdoors, you'll feel like a local by trying these quintessentially Boulder beverages.
A little buzz, no headache. These low-alcohol bevies are just the ticket for weekend warriors and adventure seekers who like to be up and at ‘em early.
• Oak at Fourteenth has an entire low-alcohol beverage section on their menu. When asked about the selection, co-owner Bryan Dayton noted that the restaurant has so many athletes come through that it’s important to have a range of beverages that they feel good about.
• Ordering up a potion from Shine Restaurant and Potion Bar is a Boulder rite of passage. As their website says, “Through a harmony of nourishing herbs, vibrational essences, sound-frequencies and more, we tune each potion to be a specific intention.” Yes. Choose from potions like Fairy Bubbles (infused with baby laughter — no joke), Owl Eyes (designed for focus and memory) or Three Laughing Monks (a stress-reliever). All are available with alcohol or without. If you opt for a booze-infused version, you can name your spirit of choice.
• At Tonic Herban Lounge, you can’t help but be transported to another, much more chill universe. Sip on crystal flower chakra elixirs, flavored water kefir (a probiotic beverage), Ish’s Brew (a honey-based, kombucha-like drink), or an herbal cocktail. Add a puff of flavored oxygen to the mix for an extra lift.
• If you need to unwind, The Root Kava Bar is the place to do it. The kava plant — part of the pepper family — has been cultivated for thousands of years in the South Pacific and is said to reduce stress and ease anxiety while increasing mental focus and aiding muscle recovery. Grab a traditional kava drink, made from ground-up kava root, or explore the rest of the menu, which offers kombucha, fruit tonics, ginger beer, tea, herbal and regular coffee, and house-made vegan Mexican hot chocolate.
• What happens when you brew iced tea like you would beer? The folks at Hoplark wanted to find out and stumbled upon a tasty alternative to beer with their sparkling HopTea. The taproom is open Sa–Su from 1 to 5pm.
• Word is, the kombucha brewers at Boulder's Rowdy Mermaid are working on a “boozy booch” kombucha beer. In the meantime, you can enjoy a regular kombucha, which has all the refreshing fizziness of a beer, with just a teensy trace of alcohol. Try it at restaurants and grocers around town, or visit the tasting room at the Rayback Collective.
What is kombucha anyway?
Pronounced kawm-boo-chah, it is simply fermented tea that’s full of probiotics, beneficial yeast and enzymes. It’s effervescent, cold, light (often under 50 calories a serving), a bit tangy and refreshing. Boulder is home to several kombucha companies. Here’s a good guide to several Boulder kombucha brewers. Be brave and try it!
Some of Boulder's most interesting drinks have a historical slant to them — fitting for a studious university town.
• Avery Brewing has a resident "beer archaeologist," Travis Rupp (who also teaches archaeology and ancient history at the University of Colorado Boulder). Rupp studies the beginnings of beer in the ancient world and uses his findings as inspiration to create new brews at Avery. You can try Nestor's Cup (brewed with six-row barley, einkorn wheat, acorn flour, figs, and elderberries) at the tap room in Boulder.
• Mead, a drink made from fermented honey, is likely one of the world's oldest alcohol beverages, with evidence linking its consumption back to ancient Africa, Europe, Asia and Greece. Boulder's Redstone Meadery brilliantly carries on the tradition with varietals like Red Raspberry Mountain Honey Wine, Sunshine Nectar and Nector of the Hops. Stop by their tasting room for free tastings.
Most Boulder craft breweries give a nod to their hometown in one creative way or another. The following beers are particularly representative of Boulder's beer- and outdoor-loving lifestyle.
• The name and label of Avery Brewing’s Out of Bounds Stout (picturing a skier tackling extreme terrain) reflects this brew’s intense flavor: bold and full-bodied.
• A blonde ale blended with Berry Black kombucha from Boulder’s own Upstart, the Boulder Shandy by Twisted Pine Brewing is a refreshing twist on this classic sipper. (Twisted Pine is temporarily closed.)
• It doesn’t get more classic than Boulder Beer’s Buffalo Gold — a Colorado favorite since 1989 that riffs off of the University of Colorado Boulder’s buffalo mascot.
• Mountain Sun’s Colorado Kind Ale is super hoppy but balanced out with a warm amber body. Just ask for a pint of “the dank.” (Mountain Sun is temporarily closed.)
• Asher Brewing Co.’s Tree Hugger Organic Amber is true to Boulder’s environmental, good-for-you ethics — but with a sinfully good flavor.
• Sanitas Brewing shares a name with one of the town’s most beloved hiking trails, a thigh-burning climb that summits Mt. Sanitas. The Sanitas Saison is the perfect, refreshing reward after such a hike.
• Boulderites came early to the gluten-free party, and Boulder's New Planet Brewery was right there, pioneering the gluten-free beer scene, developing several options including their very delicious Blonde Ale.
Toiling away at the stills, this town's distillers seem to have plenty of time to think up novel ways to bottle Boulder's unique culture and flavor, too.
• J&L Distillery’s Sno Vodka: Made from Rocky Mountain snowmelt and sweet Louisiana sugarcane, the design of this bottle makes it a great Colorado souvenir. (J & L Distilling is temporarily closed.)
• Deviant Spirits' DV8 Vodka: Made from pure Colorado spring water, this vodka is refreshing and sip-able.
• Vapor Distillery’s Pumpkin King Cordial: Blended with flavor from locally grown Baby Bear Pie pumpkins, this small-batch spirit is a treat, especially in fall.
Visit two wineries in one afternoon (they are located right next door to one another) and taste some delicious vintages, including many from grown-in-Colorado grapes:
• An urban picnic — how very Boulder! Bring your own provisions to Settembre Cellars' lovely tasting room and sample the Dry Reisling, not too sweet and just right with a gorgonzola or truffle cheese.
• At BookCliff Vineyards, go behind the scenes (complete with a virtual tour of their Colorado vineyard) and taste several award-winning wines.