12 Point Distillery opened its new digs in downtown Lafayette on Friday, becoming the first craft spirit provider to set up shop in the city.
Its opening, and other surrounding locales like it, heralds the latest trend to hit the Front Range‘s post-microbrewery explosion, according to industry experts who say the rise of the “micro” or craft distillery is the result of several converging factors playing out over the marketplace.
The shop, located along the city‘s fledgling commercial corridor at 802 S. Public Road, made its grand opening over the weekend with the staples of a Boulder County kickoff: food trucks, drink specials and games, according to Stephanie Snyder, a local entrepreneur who owns the shop with her husband, Mark.
Snyder launched the site with her family — her father- and brother-in-law, a mechanical engineer and organic chemist, respectively — officially earlier this year, she says, while the groundwork has stretched over the past few years.
“My in-laws retired a few years ago and it really just started by us all sitting down and starting to talk about what kind of project we could do as a family,” Snyder said. “And this is where we ended up; it was sort of just a natural progression.”
A decade ago, there were roughly 50 craft distilleries in the United States. Today, the American Craft Spirits Association says there likely are more than 800.
“It‘s like where craft brewing was 5 years ago, and I feel like that‘s being generous,” Matt Maenpaa, bar manager and apprentice distiller at Longmont‘s Anvil Distillery, said of the current craft distillery market‘s boom. Anvil open in 2014.
Colorado alone — a handful of them in Boulder and Longmont — up from zero licensed distilleries in 2004.
Distillers frequently compare their industry to craft brewing; the process is similar, with distilleries usually having to make beer before distilling the product further into “hard liquor.”
Maenpaa says the boom is due to several factors making it easier — if not always profitable — to open a local distillery, despite the stringent state and federal regulations surrounding the businesses once they do open.
“Part of it is because, especially in Colorado, it‘s very easy to become a distillery,” he said. “We as a state are allowed to distribute our own product, and we‘re not mandated to go through a liquor board, and then you‘re only as limited by as far you are willing to drive.”
Recent legislation signed into law in Washington, D.C., has also helped the craft distillery boon; the , an amendment that creeped its way into the tax bill that President Donald Trump signed in December.
The measure lowers the federal excise tax that producers pay to $2.70 per proof gallon (a gallon of spirits that is 50 percent alcohol), from $13.50, for the first 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits produced or imported annually.
“That frees up some of the head space with the cash,” Maenpaa said.
While breweries have found a profit with their adjoining bars or tasting rooms, distilleries are still bound to the wholesale side of their business. Colorado-spun liquors often have a harder time finding a customer base.
Despite the pitfalls, Colorado can expect the distillery trend to continue over the next several years.
Perched next to Ras Kassa‘s Ethiopian Restaurant and Deli-Cious Z‘s, 12 Point hosts an area for distilling the product (covering anything grain, wheat or oat based, such as gin and vodka), as well as a small tasting area.
Snyder said the company is sourcing its bourbon tastes while its ages, adding that some of its most popular drinks has come in its flavored liquors.
The shop will eventually offer tours to the public, according to Snyder, who adds that once the shop starts to release barrels, they will usher in “barrel release parties,” where customers can be the first to taste the new liquor flavors out of the barrel.
“More people are figuring out that they can (open distilleries), and that people will spend money on it, and that there‘s a market for it,” Maenpaa said. “It‘s like any emerging trend with local products — like farm-to-table restaurants, everyone is trying to push back into their community and support local and buy local, it was always going to carry over into beer and then into spirits.”