Aspen Times Weekly: What’s the Buzz? |

Aspen Times Weekly: What’s the Buzz?

by Jeanne McGovern | photos by Anna Stonehouse


While Basalt and the midvalley are definitely booming, the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen remains the standard by which all food and wine festivals are measured. This is true, in part, because the event is about far more than food and wine. Beer, spirits and other creative cocktails have become a staple of the weekend, with seminars and booths in the tasting tent designed to please all palates. Here are the events we’re most looking forward to at the 2017 Classic:

Battle Royale: Sake vs. Wine

Friday, 2 to 2:45 p.m.

Saturday, 2 to 2:45 p.m.

Speakers: Monica Samuels, Josh Wesson

Tequila Patrón Presents: The Art of Tasting, Shaking, and Stirring Barrel-aged Tequilas

Friday, 2 to 2:45 p.m.

Speakers: David Alan, Chris Spake

In addition, the Grand Tasting tent and parties around town will feature cocktails and beers from such purveyors as Stella Artois, Monkey 47 gin, Breckenridge Distillery, Glenlivet and many more.

ASPEN WILL BE going off the hook this weekend as the annual Food & Wine Classic takes over downtown for three-plus days of seminars and tastings, parties and people-watching.

But Aspen isn’t the only game in town, nor is wine the only beverage to be consumed.

In fact, a recent tour of a few midvalley hotspots got us thinking “outside the bottle” — about how to escape the Classic crowds and hobnobbing wine scene for a wholly different experience.

And trust us, there is a lot to be enjoyed just down Highway 82 from our world-class resort town. Yes, Basalt is buzzing these days; what follows is just a sample of what our downvalley neighbors are serving up. Enjoy!


There’s more to the farm-to-table movement than what you’ll find in Aspen’s restaurants. At Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt, it’s a farm-to-bottle movement, with locally grown potatoes being used to create the finest handcrafted spirits around.

“We have total control over our potato source,” says David Matthews, head distiller and vice president of operations for Woody Creek “They come out of the ground and right away the process is started.”

And what a process it has been for the locally owned business. Woody Creek Distillers was established in 2013; in just three years, the company has grown exponentially.

But the crown jewel of Woody Creek’s portfolio has to be its distillery and tasting room, located in Basalt’s Mid-Valley Design Center. Rustic yet modern, the tasting room invites visitors and locals to see how the distillery operates while also enjoying the fruits of those labors.

“We want people to come here and feel at home,” says tasting room manager Tracey Snow, noting that while there is no food service at the distillery, guests are welcome to bring in their own cheese platters, dinners, or whatever takeout they like — or enjoy Food Truck Fridays throughout the summer. “It’s a unique experience to see where the spirit in the cocktail you’re drinking is made.”

In fact, Woody Creek Distillers makes nearly everything in-house — the spirits, the infused spirits, an array of bitters, syrups of all stripes, even its own tonic water.

“We like to think that we do more than just make spirits,” Snow says.


There is no rule that imbibing experiences include alcohol. In fact, grabbing a cup at Confluence Coffee will give you a buzz of a different kind.

“What we’re doing here is different than anywhere else in the valley, or even most of Colorado,” says Jeremi Kentz, a Roaring Fork Valley native who recently returned to his hometown and opened Confluence Coffee in downtown Basalt. “We’re on the cutting edge, ahead of the curve, when it comes to coffee.”

Pull up a chair in the rustic yet sleek community gathering place — and spend a few moments talking java with Jeremi — and you get the message: This is no ordinary coffeeshop.

At Confluence, the meticulous coffee bean selection methods, high-tech roasting processes, state-of-the-art machinery — all blended with a passion for coffee that goes beyond the norm give Basalt an edgy vibe.

“We want to share the joy of real, good coffee with the valley,” Krentz says. “And now in the midvalley is the perfect time and place to do this.”


There is no shortage of craft breweries in the Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen is home to the uber-popular Aspen Brewing Co.; Carbondale’s Roaring Fork Brewing Co. continues to grow its operations; and Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. never fails to garner accoldes and awards. But the true midvalley — Basalt, specifically — seemed to have missed out on the movement …until this year.

“It’s a no-brainer of a concept,” Bill Johnson said in an interview with The Aspen Times before opening Capitol Creek Brewery at Willits. “My thought is, I can’t believe somebody didn’t beat me to it.”

Now, with the brewpub open for business, Johnson and partners are starting to build Capitol Creek’s reputation as yet another place worth checking out while downvalley.

“All of our beers are brewed in-house by our brewmaster, Jerod Day,” notes the brewery’s website. “We will keep a variety of beers on tap for every type of beer connoisseur.”

Yes, the Basalt buzz continues.

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