The Western Slopes of Colorado create interesting microclimates that have led to a perfect climate for growing fruit. While most local businesses are farms and orchards, Anna and Lance Hanson saw the opportunity to use leftover fruit and ferment the sugars into craft spirits.
One hour away resides another area famous for its fruit growing: the North Fork Valley. Tucked between mountains to the east, the Grand Mesa to the North, and the canyons and high desert of the west county, you’ll find a temperate climate that supports several peach, cherry and apple orchards. The owners of Jack Rabbit Hill Farm knew Europeans made brandy out of these fruits and decided to use their equipment and knowledge about fermentation to try the same thing. Thus, they began Peak Spirits Farm Distillery on their biodynamic farm to make CapRock, small batch certified biodynamic and organic spirits.
For owners Lance and Anna Hanson, the whole operation has always been an outgrowth of their love for high quality, biodynamic farming. In fact, Hanson regularly gives talks about organic and biodynamic agriculture, and hosts wine dinners at nearby restaurants that serve consciously-grown food.
In order to fund their farming habit, they started growing grapes on site to make Jack Hill Farm wine then craft distilling was a natural next step. The Hansons already had most of the equipment and knowledge from their winemaking business at Jack Rabbit Hill. The owners use high mountain water to cut their spirits, inspiring the name of their flagship brand “CapRock,” as well as certified organic or biodynamic fruit. They use a “chitty chitty bang bang” copper still from rural Europe which channels “farm distillery” model that inspired their operation.
In 2007, they began by making Eaux de Vie, a pure and clear European style brandy, by distilling whole ripe fruit mashes. They also started making grappa, an Italian brandy, distilled from the skins and seeds of a biodynamic winemaking grape.
One of their most popular products is a full-bodied gin blending fruits, flowers, seeds and spices that speak louder than the juniper and citrus which are the prominent features in many gins. Organic Jonathan apples from a nearby orchard and organic Romanian winter wheat grown on site form the base of the spirit, enhanced by a blend of 12 different whole fruits, flowers, seeds and spices without using any extracts or concentrates.
Just as the gin and spirits place fresh fruit and food flavors in the forefront, their tasting room features their love of the land, sitting in a cozy barn surrounded by sheep, chickens, vines and produce. Plan a visit to North Fork Valley to arrange a visit to their farm and tasting room. You can also find their spirits at local restaurants and distributors in California, Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New York, South Carolina, Washington DC and some places in Europe.
Katie Foote is a doctoral student who travels the world any chance she can get. Physics trips to India, Taiwan, Brazil and Singapore funded her first international travels and since then, she’s been hooked and found ways to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!). She seeks out off-the-beaten-path destinations and tries to authentically experience new places through a local lens. When she’s not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes to swim, do yoga, experiment with multicultural cuisine and activities, where she currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Check out Katie’s blog to follow her adventures around the world.