Change of taste

Boulder County offers a unique roster of food and drink tasting experiences well beyond beer

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It may be heresy hereabouts, but sometimes beer gets boring and you need a change of tasting rooms. Luckily, Boulder County is chockablock with destinations where you can sample and learn about everything from award-winning local whiskey and wine to tea, coffee, cider and mead. Even oxygen and kratom are on the menu at a couple of places. 

The advantage of a tasting room is that your guide at the bar may be the person who literally crushed the grapes in your glass of wine. Plus, you get to meet locals in a fun, low-key environment. 

Here is your guide to the beerless Boulder County tasting-room trail.

SPIRITS

Vapor Distillery

5311 Western Ave., Boulder

Distilled at Vapor Distillery using the biggest pot still in the state, Boulder Spirits crafts Scottish-inspired versions of American single malt whiskeys, bourbons and gin. The results have garnered the Boulder distillery the respect of the highly opinionated spirits community.
Distillery visitors can visit Monday through Saturday to taste and purchase bottles and samplers. No mixed drinks are available. However, to really understand the whiskey process, sign up for Boulder Spirits weekly tours led by the staff. The tour focuses on the essential ingredients, processes and equipment, followed by a guided tasting of four whiskies. Attendees receive a 10% discount on bottle purchases. 

Other spirits experiences are available at Boulder County distilleries including Abbott & Wallace Distilling, Dry Land Distillers, Copper Sky Distillery, Deviant Spirits, Hogback Distillery and Spirit Hound

CIDER

BOCO Cidery & Taproom

1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 14, Boulder

This local taproom always has a dozen or more Boulder-made ciders on tap, fermented gluten-free, unfiltered and unpasteurized with no additives. Order a flight of four 5-ounce pours. Selections include Boulder Bushel (made from residential apples collected by Community Fruit Rescue), S.O.B. (aged in Bourbon barrels), Stone’s Throw (made with Boulder-grown Cascade hops) and Mango Tango (made with chilies including habanero and serrano and mango juice).

Other local cider tasting rooms include Acreage at Stem Cider in Lafayette and St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont.

WINE

Bookcliff Vineyards Tasting Room

1501 Lee Hill Road, Unit 17, Boulder

Stop by this tasting room — in the same plaza as BOCO Cider — to sample Bookcliff’s award-winning vintages of Cabernet Franc, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, late harvest muscat, rosé as well as blends like Ensemble — that’s cabernet sauvignon, merlot and Petit Verdot aged in French oak barrels. All are made from grapes grown on Colorado’s Western Slope. The winery also offers a limited number of weekly guided tours featuring wine tasting (with chocolate and cheese), a winery tour, and a virtual tour of the Palisade vineyard. 

Other local wineries include Settembre Cellars, Silver Vines Winery and Vinnie Fera Winery in Boulder and Augustina’s Winery in Nederland. 

MEAD 

Redstone Meadery

4700 Pearl St., Boulder

Fermented from honey, mead may well be the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. It’s also misunderstood and typically thought of as syrupy sweet. Colorado is home to at least a dozen small meaderies bottling beverages that range in taste from very dry to fruity, but not all have tasting rooms where you can taste and compare a flight of meads. 

Redstone Meadery is Colorado’s best-known meadery. Its Boulder tasting room is an ideal place to get to know the various styles of meads made with diverse types of honey including Boysenberry Nectar, Passion Fruit Nectar, Juniper Berry Mountain Honey Wine, Traditional Mountain Honey Wine and 2011 Peach Reserve. Some specialty meads are only available in the tasting room.

Other nearby meaderies which offer tastings include Queen Bee Brews in Denver and Hunter’s Moon Meadery in Severance.

Ku Cha House of Tea

TEA

Ku Cha House of Tea

1211 Pearl St., Boulder

Boulder-born Ku Cha House of Tea — now with five Colorado shops — is a tea nerd’s paradise. Owners Rong Pan and Qin Liu stock more than 170 loose teas and blends, served hot or iced. The peaceful glass-ceilinged tea room at Ku Cha’s Pearl Street location lends itself to experiencing the nuances of exceptional green, white, oolong, black and p’u-erh teas and various herb and fruit teas. 

Other Boulder destinations that offer tea tasting experiences include the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, A Cup of Peace, the Brewing Market and Old Barrel Tea Company.

CHOCOLATE

Moksha Chocolate

2746 47th St., Boulder

Boulder’s Moksha Chocolate has built a reputation for fine, responsibly sourced chocolate bars made in small batches. 

You can stop by Moksha’s Boulder factory to pick up chocolate and get a peek at how it’s made almost entirely by one man. While there you’ll probably get to sample some of the goods, but you can learn more about chocolate by hosting a mystery tasting session with friends and family at home.  

Moksha’s Game of Four is a kit for nine players featuring four boxes of nine craft chocolate samples and a mat with tasting clues with distinct flavor notes and a reference guide for the host. Players compete to see who can match the chocolate to the descriptions.  

To go deeper into chocolate appreciation, you can schedule a private tasting with one of Moksha’s owners. 

OXYGEN 

Tonic Alchemy Lounge

2011 10th St, Boulder

Taste buds are swell, but you haven’t really tasted until you’ve bellied up to the bar and inhaled scented oxygen at Boulder’s Tonic Alchemy Bar. It helps visitors adjust to the altitude (or recover from last night’s festivities), even if they look silly with a nasal cannula stuck in their noses. With its chill lighting, ambient music, relaxing furniture and mellow clientele, Tonic is the kind of only-in-Boulder encounter that visitors tell stories about when they get home. 

The menu features herbal elixirs and you can add CBD, therapeutic mushrooms, kava and blue green algae to drinks, or simply sip freshly oxygenated water. The menu includes mushroom shakes, botanical gem cordials, kombucha-like jun, and chocolate preparations like the aphrodisiacal Mug of Love made with raw cacao, cayenne, maca, damiana, yohimbe and foti.

Beverages at The Root Kava Co.

KAVA & KRATOM

The Root Kava Co.

1641 28th St., Boulder

Where else in Boulder can you relax in a bar that doesn’t serve spirits, wine, beer, cider or any other variety of alcohol? Almost every Boulder bar and restaurant offers mocktails — elaborately mixed booze-free drinks — but those tasty beverages lack one critical element: They don’t do anything other than taste good. 

At the Root Kava Bar in Boulder, the namesake beverage, kava, is made from a South Pacific plant that can reduce stress, ease anxiety and provide a mild buzz. Visitors can get energized with another plant ingredient, kratom. It’s worth being at the bar at midnight nightly when the bartenders pass out samples of kava or kratom and everyone toasts the new day and heads home sober. 

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