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Sunday, July 5, 2015

How a MicroShiner Spends Father's Day

Ryan Montgomery is one seriously cool guy. Not only does he own and operate the exceptional Montgomery Distillery on Front Street in downtown Missoula, Montana, but he is also a big motorcycle enthusiast. When he isn't crafting spirits or touring whisky distilleries in Scotland, you will likely find him cruising motorcycle sites like Silodrome and Pipeburn, working with local shop Number 8 Wire on his latest custom build, or taking his son for a ride on their sidecar mounted BMW.

While you can almost always find one of several Montgomery-liveried bikes Ryan has built parked downstairs in the distillery production space, the time when they really shine is the third Sunday in June. With another stroke of his typical brilliance, Ryan has gifted throttle twisting, alcohol fueled dads of the area with the perfect event: Spirits & Spokes - a Father's Day of Cocktails and Motorcycles.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Privateer Rum - the Spirit of Independence

The Fourth of July, America's Independence Day, is not only an iconic date in our country's great history, but has also come to epitomize the season of Summer and the joys of vacation. While the rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air may serve as reminders of a hard-fought revolution, those fireworks will undoubtedly be shining down on some serious revelry this weekend as patriotic parties from coast to coast take advantage of the long holiday break. To assist with those festivities, Privateer Rum has a seemingly tailor-made spirit in their True American Silver Reserve.

Distilled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Privateer Rum is the creation of Andrew Cabot, a man who shares not only his name, but also his penchant for rum production, with a Revolutionary War-era ancestor. Andrew Cabot of the eighteenth century was noted for his exploits against the British Navy during the Colonies' quest for independence, and his modern-day descendant has infused that noble spirit and early American heritage into his Privateer offerings.

Drawing inspiration from pre-Industrial techniques, Cabot and his team begin with high quality ingredients such as pale amber cane juice crystals and boiled brown sugar. One of the mottos around their New England distillery is that merely “good enough” is never an option, and so the selection and utilization of their sugars and yeast is driven by a desire to create the purest product possible. In that vein, the integrity of their Silver Reserve Rum is maintained along every step of its development. The distillation is kept unadulterated by being allowed to mature in isolated steel tanks, and each batch is bottled and hand-numbered without filtration. Perhaps most importantly, the people at Privateer never add any artificial flavors, coloring or sweeteners to their spirits, thus insuring that their label serves as a seal of authenticity for some of the truest rums available today.

This dedication to purity is evident as soon as the cork is removed from the bottle, as the aroma of the Silver Reserve is one of the cleanest scents a hard liquor can possess. While the rum is a bona fide 80 proof, the alcohol content is barely noticeable to the nose, instead giving way to a fresh, sweet smell that brings to mind the late-blooming bouquet of flowers on a sultry Summer night or even that crisp, ionic air one encounters in the wake of a thunderstorm. In the glass, this Privateer is crystal clear, leaving long, lean legs that reveal just a hint of viscosity, and not the overly syrupy consistency found in many other silver rums. The pleasant odors and texture are just a prelude to the main attraction, however, as the flavors of the Silver Reserve are a true delight.

Unmistakably floral, and even a bit fruity, this True American Rum brings to mind the sweet treats of childhood Summers past without sacrificing its assuredly adult edge. It has bite, but very little burn, and can be enjoyed neat without concern of acquiring a pair of sticky lips. Over rocks is an equally satisfying experience, but Silver Reserve is particularly well-suited to some of the simple, seasonal cocktails that have become staples of the warmer months. A traditional daiquiri, a bare-bones piƱa colada and especially a fresh mint mojito all benefit tremendously from the clean flavor profile and lack of artificial additives present in Privateer Silver Reserve.

As Americans across the country prepare to celebrate another year of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, the distillers of Ipswich remind us all that while said pursuit is rarely an easy task, staying true to your goals and remaining dedicated to seeing them through can produce some truly sweet results.

Friday, June 26, 2015

#DrinkBetter: Domino from Crescendo

James Bond, by any measure, is a man of exceedingly fine taste. His suits are impeccably tailored, his automobiles exquisite, and his choice in female companions, shall we say, enviable. However, when it comes to the contents of his ever-present cocktail, even a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service can occasionally fall short.

As craft continues its steady conquest of the world, we are confident that the 007 of the future will undoubtedly be a microshiner. Rather than Gordon's, Smirnoff, or even the current contender, Belvedere, Subsequent agents will most assuredly defer to the local terroir, enjoying libations native to the exotic locales their intrigues conduct them.

One such example is this drink from Crescendo Organic Spirits, inspired by James Bond's personal martini recipe, the Vesper, but using Limoncello instead of Lillet.


3 oz local craft Gin
1 oz local craft Vodka
0.5 oz Limoncello

Shake & Strain into a chilled martini glass

Garnish with a thin lemon peel

Thursday, June 25, 2015

@TimWenger1: 300 Days of Craft

Rays of piercing sunlight emerge from behind thick clouds and illuminate the misty glow of afternoon rainfall on the streets of the Mile High City, hiding the morning’s urban smog and accentuating a smell of anxious freshness as the evening settles in. From my vantage point, standing in an unpaved parking lot behind a rock club on the corner of Broadway and Iowa, I am forced to squint as I look westward toward the snow-capped mountains. No trace remains of the late-season snow that still held its ground in shaded grassy areas and dark alleys just a few weeks ago.

Ah, summertime in Colorado, our bipolar state where the famed ‘300 days of sunshine’ legend scores a good 100 consecutive points because the daily thunderstorm apparently doesn’t count as rain if it only lasts for seven minutes. Just long enough to sizzle on the blacktop and inject a quick load of regret into the hordes of tourists who didn’t think to put the tops up on their rented convertibles.

In my left hand is a plastic rocks glass half full of melting ice and diluted Maker’s Mark, as good as a cocktail as I was able to muster from behind the bar at Herman’s Hideaway, the dive-y old rock club where I spend my weekday afternoons booking concerts and extinguishing rock-star sized tantrums. It’s 5:30 and I’ve got ten minutes to kill before jumping the train downtown to the Ogden Theatre to catch the latest in a never-ending stream of young indie-rockers trying to capture the attention (and open the wallets) of the growing horde of millennial hipsters that have moved in and promptly overrun, by my calculations, a good 65% of the city. 40 minutes if I decide to veer up the street for a quick drink at Bear Creek Distillery, which given the fact that I’ll be swilling the equivalent of rat piss at the show tonight seems like a fine idea.

One of the first things I learned in college is that you should always get your buzz going on the good stuff before moving to the crap. Which of course assumed that you actually had something good - certainly not always the case - which makes me, for a fraction of a moment at least, take some joy in having a few years under my belt. In moments like this, recalling the fear of turning 30 seems worse than having actually hit the mark.

I walk into a quiet scene, a good place to pass some time before the rushed, sardined experience of a rock show. As I see it, the best part about this place is the presentation - they clearly spent some time on the tasting room during the development phase. Two 16 foot glass garage doors provide me with a view of the still where the silver rum I am sipping was created.

Distiller Jeff Dickinson and his partnership crew at the Bear are a small group of long-time buddies that grew up together and who share a love of drinking and a desire to put handcrafted spirits, produced grain-to-bottle at their Denver facility, into the mouths of thirsty microshiners. I’ve been meaning to check them out for a while.

“We all went to junior high and high school,” says Jay Johnson, one of the four partners and PR aficionado at the distillery. “We four, as friends, started our drinking careers in high school together.”

While Bear Creek itself sits a bit west of town, the team was happy to settle into their south Denver location.

“We wanted to be in Denver proper with our distillery, and as close to a main street as we could be,” says Johnson. They ended up at 1879 S. Acoma, a stone’s throw from Broadway and right in the heart of the Old South Pearl district, one of Denver’s most unique neighborhoods.

The distillery is fast approaching its fifth birthday, fueled by relentless passion and a growing craft scene in Denver.

“Jeff and I quit our jobs and threw ourselves headlong into this,” says Johnson. Researching everything from distilling to marketing and visiting tasting rooms across the country, they took what they learned and are now doing their part to push the craft scene forward in Denver. “I really feel like we’ve managed to create a unique experience where we are.”

Right now Bear Creek Distillery has a silver rum available and two types of vodka - a 100% rye and a 100% wheat. By 2017, they will have bourbon and whiskey selections as well as a spiced rum to offer both in the tap room and off-site.

“We’re going to be one of the few places in the state manufacturing a spiced rum,” says Johnson. These new products, he says, should help the company continue to up their placement count, which currently sits at 50 different establishments. “The hardships that I’m having approaching accounts is that, a lot of times they will really enjoy our product and realize that it may in some cases be a superior product, but companies that came before us (already) have their products in there. As the landscape in distilling changes, I really feel like we will have a leg up on that.”

The landscape here in Colorado is changing, and Johnson notes that one of the biggest challenges he faces when meeting with an establishment to sell them on his product is that other micro-distilleries have already filled any vacant spots behind the bar. “Limited shelf space is something that we deal with,” Johnson says. A good sign in many ways, as craft hunters like myself no longer have to head to high-end bars and drop $25 on a cocktail just to try something new. There are handfuls of restaurants and bars in Denver’s growing neighborhoods stocking craft spirits. Perhaps one day the music world will catch up.

At the Ogden, for example, I find myself in a dilemma of tastes. The beer selection is, considering the high-volume and quick-service setting, honestly not terrible - any respectable place selling drinks in Colorado will be quickly shunned if they don’t show love to the bulging craft beer scene. Spirits, however, are another story. In all of the nights I have spent at shows, not only here at home but around the country, it is rare to find a selection of, if any, small batch spirits in bars and clubs dedicated to live rock music.

Perhaps with some clever marketing by Johnson and his craft counterparts, that can change. One can only hope. With that in mind, I jump into the bar line at the back of the club, half of my previous drink still in hand to keep me company as I wait to order another.

Check out the release of Bear Creek Distillery’s cast-strength rum over the 4th of July weekend. Learn more at

Tim Wenger is a Denver-based microshiner, journalist, musician, and avid snowboarder. Catch more of his work in Colorado Music Buzz, Snowboard Colorado, and his weekly talk show on

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Game in Our Own Backyard

With all the attention that major American sports championships receive, its easy to forget about the local minor leaguers playing in our own backyard. The NBA Finals series may be tied 2-2 going into Game 5, but for a MicroShiner, that is only scratching the surface.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being one of 110 million people who watched the Super Bowl. But how many people in New Hampshire know that the Manchester Monarchs won the franchise's first ever Calder Cup championship with a 2-1 win over the Comets at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Saturday night? Hopefully more than one might think.

All across America, while people sit glued to televisions watching competitions between teams they have no reason to care a whit about, there are minor league teams playing their hearts out in half-filled stadiums. Are these games any less important, meaningful, or exciting than the majors? Doubtful, and certainly not to those who have invested the energy in playing or following them.

And this disparity isn’t confined only to traditional North American sports such as baseball and hockey. Take, for example, the bastard stepchild of athletics in America, football. No, not that football. The one we call soccer. 2 million people viewed the MLS Championship, yet there are over 4 million registered U.S. Soccer players. So perhaps that isn’t the best example, because there are likely 8 million soccer parents screaming on the sidelines somewhere. Tough to sneak a cocktail in past them though.

But consider minor league baseball, once the national pastime. While major league interest has flagged, attendance in the lower tiers has been growing in strength for many years. Season attendance for the MiLB was over 41 million, more than half of what the MLB saw. Its another sign that more and more often people are turning to their own surroundings to provide what they need and desire.

So dig up a local sports league to support (the Osprey, the Maulers, and the Hellgate Roller girls are some around here) and enjoy some honest competition. You may have to drink beer at the game, but afterwards you can talk about how much fun you had over a cocktail of your favorite craft spirits.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Five of the Best Cocktail Movies

Let us just start by saying, the list thing has run its course. Jonah Peretti and Ben Smith may be the face of digital journalism, but every one of their signature listicles together don't carry the weight of a single issue of Life Magazine or National Geographic. Product placement is nothing new, and the sheer amount of it in the movie E.T. may border on shameless, but no one ever claimed it was journalism. And it was certainly much more subtle and interesting than the fusion of some random number of pop culture references and a moniker oddly reminiscent of male genitalia.

All that aside, some things just beg to be assembled, and rather than share the following mandatory cocktail culture films each in their own post, we thought we would break with tradition and go with the flow.

If you have any favorites of your own not listed here, please share in the comments or @microshiner. Cheers!

1. Casablanca

Foregoing the fact that Casablanca is the best film of all time, its also set in a bar. Half of Bogie's lines are now part of the American lexicon, and Ingrid Bergman, well, enough said.

2. Cocktail

Let's get it out of the way. It's called Cocktail. It has Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue. Watch it.

Spanning 50 years of film history, James Bond is a cinematic icon. Regardless whether they prefer Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, ask anybody in the world how Bond takes his drink and chances are they will tell you, "shaken, not stirred." Probably with a bad accent. 

4. Sex in the City

Four beautiful women, a couple hundred pairs of Ferragamo's, sex, and a cosmo. What more can you ask for?

Outside of Sex in the City, there are few films about which it can be said that a cocktail played a starring role, but The Big Lebowski is one of them. It is also one of those rare movies (alongside Full Metal Jacket) whose pure genius can be understood simply by reading the screenplay.

Friday, June 5, 2015

#DrinkBetter: La Bellini D'Orange from Crescendo

Brunch is one of those under-represented joys in life. One of those things people do on special occasions when their grandmother forces them to. It's not until you're actually sitting there with a mimosa in your hand, enjoying the option to have either roast beef or cheese blintzes or both, that you say to yourself, "Why don't I do this every day?"

We suggest adding a little spirit to that classic brunch beverage with this recipe from Crescendo Organic Spirits.


Muddle 1.5 oz Arancello with fresh peaches
Add ice and shake vigorously

Strain into champagne flute
Top with fine sparkling wine

Garnish with a thin floating slice of peach

Crescendo Organic Spirits is a veteran owned company based in Eugene whose spirits are distributed throughout Oregon. Their products are free from GMO's and artificial ingredients and are priced below that of many non-organic options.