Into the Drink With Stranahan's and Oskar Blues
I didn’t technically jump into a swimming pool full of whiskey Wednesday afternoon, although I drank from one – and my head hurts almost as much as if I had cannonballed off the diving board.
No, what I did was attend a little party thrown by Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey (2405 Blake Street) and Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons/Longmont, which have formed a business partnership and wanted to get the word out.
To make its small-batch whiskey (the labels are dated by hand by one of three distillers), Stranahan’s starts with something called “wash.” I could tell you more about what it is, but instead of listening to Jake Norris, the knowledgeable head distiller who was giving a tour, I was drinking a glass of whiskey and chasing it with an Old Chub (beer in a can) from Oskar Blues.
What I think I heard is that “wash” is non-hopped fermented beer that Stranahan’s runs through its still to begin the whiskey-making process. The company used to get its wash from Flying Dog Brewery, which was located next door to Stranahan’s on Blake Street until the brewer moved its entire operation to Maryland earlier this year.
The morning after that announcement was made, Norris said he had an e-mail in his inbox from Oskar Blues publicity pro (and former Westword writer) Marty Jones offering to take over the job of making the custom-made product. It was a match made at the bottom of barrel.
Norris attempted to continue the tour at this point, but the forty or so journalists, brewery and still employees and other attendees (many on their second or third glass of whiskey or can of beer) didn’t appear to be so inclined. In fact, many were at least as infused as the two dozen beer-can chickens that the Oskar Blues guys were grilling outside on top of cans of their Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub and Gordon beer.
Even so, Norris was gracious, offering me a taste of Batch 24 of his smooth, 94-proof, lovingly created, $60-a-bottle whiskey, which is still in a giant, eleven-barrel vat, waiting to be bottled (the swimming pool). And when I admitted to him that I had once used some of his whiskey in a barbeque sauce recipe, he was philosophical rather than angry.
“I never tell anyone how to drink their whiskey. I just tell them what whiskey to buy,” he said. “They’re a grown man. They can do what they want.”
Even swim in it. -– Jonathan Shikes