Craig Engelhorn on weathering the flood that watered down Spirit Hound Distillers
As the Colorado floods subside and relief efforts move forward, stories have surfaced about how people fared, especially in the town of Lyons, which was hit particularly hard.
Craig Engelhorn was concluding a typical day at Spirit Hound Distillers last Wednesday, when he got in his car to head home. But his truck wouldn't start, so he called his wife to tell her he'd be sleeping at the distillery, and she agreed to drop off a change of clothes for him in the morning. It was business as usual.
Craig Engelhorn Spirit Hound's signature Buick outside of the water-logged distillery
I woke up at 5:30 and I heard gurgling," Engelhorn recalls. "I was mad because I knew it would be an issue with the plumbing, but when I looked down over the balcony,
I saw chairs floating in the tasting room. I was trapped, but I went downstairs, put my brewers boots on, and looked out the window. I realized that there was a fucking river outside and I was in the middle of it."
And the water didn't start receding until Friday. For days, Engelhorn was the only partner who witnessed the damage at Spirit Hound Distillers -- and while the distillery is a muddy mess, he reassured his partners that it wasn't a total write-off. Engelhorn, whose house resides outside of Lyons, is fine. Meanwhile, the other partners were putting out fires at their other businesses.
"In a sense, Lyons was lucky," says Engelhorn. We didn't lose anyone here, and it could have been far more of a tragedy. The way I see it, you don't get this kind of adventure often in a lifetime -- and watching people come together to support one another and support the community is an amazing thing to watch."
Engelhorn remains a beacon of optimism, although he estimates that it will take six months to a year for the distillery to get back on its feet entirely. "Our equipment is okay, but it's a mud hole, and we're downstream, so we're all at risk of god-knows-what from the sewage plant, no matter how much we power wash," explains Englehorn. "We lost some product on the bottom of our pallets," he adds, "but the product at the top is high and dry." Nonetheless, Engelhorn estimates that the distillery will have to halt production until the town's infrastructure is back to normal. "We have power and Internet, so that's a start," he notes.
The Spirit Hound team already has ideas for fundraising efforts for flood victims, including a potential microbrew collaboration that would promote and raise awareness for victims in need of relief.
"It's not a total loss," admits Engelhorn. "Screw that. We have a shit-ton of cleaning to do, but we'll rise from the ashes."
You can help, too, by purchasing Spirit Hound products, which are sold at a variety of Denver liquor stores, including Argonaut and Wines off Wynkoop. Every bit of support counts.