“Gimme some gasoline.”
It’s a line from a Bouncing Souls song, applicable in more ways than one into describing the 2016 Sparks and Spirits. Part art show, part craft spirit tasting, and part pyrotechnic extravaganza, the event was an amalgam of creative minds coming together to express themselves through fire, light, and sound. All while drinking a hefty amount of liquor.
The event is the craft beverage arm of the NoCo Mini Maker Fair, itself an offshoot of the original Maker Fair held in California back in 2006. This annual event in Loveland celebrates makers of all kinds - artists, musicians, craft creators, and more. The parent organization in Colorado is Colorado Maker Hub, a 501c3 non-profit that celebrates and promotes the fine art of making. “We champion making of all kinds across the state, and funds from (Sparks and Spirits) go to our youth making programs, helping to bring creativity and innovation into education,” said Elise Van Dyne, media director for the event.
Formerly called Makers After Dark, Sparks and Spirits serves as the ‘adult’s only’ time of the NoCo Mini Maker Faire, a fiery imbibe-al of art and craft spirits that took over the First National Bank Building in Loveland, Colorado on October 7th. 13 craft distilleries from Colorado and one from Wyoming provided the libations.
The main visual attraction sat in a hazy heat wave outside on the patio. To the beat of everything from electronic music to hip-hop and 80’s stadium rock, a series of propane-powered torches shot flames into the air, often in a synchronized manner that enveloped the area in a wall of fire that can only be described as awesome. It was redneck’s wet dream, like when you stand so close to a firework on the Fourth of July that the heat singes the hairs on your face as your nostrils fill with the scent of gunpowder. Plus, there was ample booze, and once in the door, fill-ups on the taster glass were bottomless.
Inside, the event served as a three-hour social club where attendees sampled spirits, cocktails, and other goodies from the vendors, enjoyed live music and body painting and ate from a buffet table in the center of the room. As a relatively experienced scofflaw, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several of the distillers in the past and spent much of the evening catching up with them and sampling new products. I enjoyed chatting with Jay from Bear Creek Distillery and drinking some of their Rye Whiskey. Kim from Rising Sun Distillery poured me some of their new Lavender Hibiscus Liqueur, and I drank some of that amazing Tenderfoot Whiskey from Wood’s High Mountain Distillery (I’ve made a habit of stopping into their Salida tasting room for a drink on my frequent road trips from Denver to Durango). Vapor Distillery’s Rhok Gin is as delicious as ever.
A few notable spirits I hadn’t tasted before this event: Feisty Spirits out of Fort Collins produces an amazing Rye Whiskey. The smell hits the nose instantly, and after a smooth sip, the rye flavor leaves more of a taste than a bite on the tongue. The white rum from Greeley’s Syntax Spirits is one of the few rums I’ve enjoyed drinking neat. The Narrow Road Vodka from Elevation 5003 Distillery in Fort Collins actually makes me want to drink vodka, not an easy feat.
The vibe at the event carried on the traditional beer hall friendliness that underscores a good craft event, especially when said event is a charitable fundraiser. There’s just something so powerful and unifying about getting wasted for a good cause. Sparks and Spirits has outgrown its current space and will become an independent function in 2017, taking place May 20 at the Lafayette Arts Underground in Lafayette. Stay tuned for info on distilleries, makers, and artists to be in attendance here.Until next time, live slow, drink better and lead a life distilled. The scene is alive and well here in Colorado.