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beer, a little softer, sweeter.” “The vodkas have been well received, but they’re different. Sometimes people say ‘wow,’ and ‘it’s a refreshing change,’ but other people say, ‘what did you do to vodka?’ We’ve dug our heels in with that.” The same is true for Wheat Whiskey, which won Silver at the 2017 San Francisco Worlds, and now Wheated Bourbon. “That just has more character than a regular Straight Bourbon. We started filling bourbon barrels with 100% wheat and 100% rye just to mirror what we did with the vodka. There’s not many people making 100% wheat whiskey. We had a little pushback on that at first, but once people tried it and figured out what it was, people really embraced.”

What’s next? Winning awards is more than validation, says Johnson; they help Bear Creek to pay it forward. “We’ve had countless people starting distilleries in the state, out of state, Florida, Minnesota, reach out to us,” he says. “We’ve done our best to help as people have helped us. We try to pay it back because we did the same thing. When we were coming up, we’ve forged wonderful relationships. As we’ve become busier, we don’t have a whole lot of time for that, but, what it is they say, a rising tide raises all boats.” Johnson says Straight Bourbon is already the distillery’s best seller followed by Rye Whiskey. The Spiced Rum is also popular, but since it’s infused with hard to procure and expensive ingredients, including vanilla bean pods, ginger, orange peel and black peppercorn, they don’t make it in bulk. “It’s more of a boutique spirit,” he says. Is there a gin in Bear Creek’s future? “We don’t make gin,” laughs Johnson. “None of us like gin. We make what we like.” “I think this year will be our most telling,” muses Johnson. “To see where our numbers are at with our full spirit line up. We’ll be able to set ourselves apart and be in the same sentence as Leopold Bros., Stranahan’s, Laws, and Deerhammer. I feel we are at that table now. Twenty eighteen is going to be a really good year for us.”

Bear Creek Distillery is located in Denver, Colorado. For more information visit www.bearcreekdistillery.com 114 

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Artisan Spirit: Summer 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Summer 2018  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.