By Mark Cox
Looking for a Colorado-centric or locally made gift to give this holiday season?
It shouldn’t be too difficult.
Denver's transformation in recent years from cowtown to regular fixture on “Best Places to Live” lists has raised Colorado's profile – and entrepreneurs have been fast to market (and monetize) the state's ascent.
“Colorado always had a certain mystique,” says Darrin Duber-Smith, marketing professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, “but now thousands of new people have fallen in love with the state and Denver. The whole idea of the outdoorsy type in a plaid shirt, cracking open a cold one before going mountain biking or skiing in the Rockies – that’s a pretty powerful brand.”
The result has been a surge of locally produced goodies that celebrate the Centennial State and its capital city. Here are nine of the best Colorado gifts to give – or get for yourself.
The “ballsiest canned beer in the world” is brewed by Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Co. with roasted barley, specialty grains, golding hops, and, yes, roasted bull testicles. Naturally, it’s sold in two-packs. This novel stout started off as a spoof April Fools video — but so many aficionados embraced the idea that Wynkoop actually went ahead and brewed it up. Denver’s standing as a craft beer capital is part of its journey to becoming a hip destination, Duber-Smith says. “It’s just another aspect of the city’s evolution into a millennial hot-spot.”
Do you like to give quirky, one-of-a-kind gifts with great environmental credentials? Colorado Ski Furniture takes old, worn skis and snowboards that have seen their last run and crafts them into marvelous styles and shapes. “More than anything, Colorado is known for skiing and the outdoors,” Duber-Smith says, “so this idea – outdoor furniture made from skis – practically sells itself.” Colorado Ski Furniture’s wares are also a great way to spend the whole day on skis without getting injured (unless you get festively tipsy and fall off a chair).
Or, perhaps the powder hound on your gift list would prefer a pair of new skis designed to shred Colorado's Rocky Mountains? Meier Skis presses their high-performance, environmentally responsible skis and snowboards in their Denver "craft skiery," where you can sidle up at a bar and sip a microbrew while you watch skis being made. This year, the MSU Denver Alumni Association partnered with Meier to design custom MSU Denver skis, which put a custom Roadrunner top sheet on the company's award-winning Quickdraw.
From which other city could you send distant family and friends a blue bear figurine and tell them it’s based on the real, 40-foot-high blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center? Duber-Smith explains: “London has Big Ben. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. And now, Denver has the blue bear (officially named ‘I See What You Mean’). It’s very hard to miss, and I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it, so the city has been smart to market it through figures and postcards. It is fast becoming the iconic symbol of our town.”
You can’t spend five minutes in Denver without seeing the sunny “C” flag. It’s everywhere – covering hats, hoodies, t-shirts, yoga pants, belt buckles, bandanas, car windows and even dog collars. “Ten years ago, you never saw anything like this,” Duber-Smith says. “But then Denver became this go-to city, attracting thousands of excited new arrivals. And when people move somewhere new, they naturally want to belong (and) tend to embrace things that demonstrate pride in their adopted home.” Of course, it helps that many proud Colorado natives are also fond of the gear. And it makes a great holiday gift to send to family and friends not lucky enough to live in the sunny Centennial State.
Denver is teeming with specialty coffee roasters these days, and there’s a healthy debate over whose beans are best. But Corvus Coffee's selection of rich flavors and impeccable credentials (they work exclusively with single-estate and privately owned farms), puts them in the conversation about who is King Coffee in the Mile High City. Gift a Single Origin Subscription and they'll deliver a 12 oz bag of coffee to that special someone every two or four weeks.
What coffee table wouldn’t be improved by this fabulous art book celebrating one of the world’s most incredible concert venues? “Red Rocks: The Concert Years” is packed with pictures of legendary shows by artists such as the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and U2. But no matter who’s on stage – and there are interviews with 200 performers within these pages – the naturally formed amphitheatre 17 miles outside Denver always remains the real star. As author G. Brown notes in the book: “God is a pretty good architect.” It’s available on Amazon, but be a good Denverite and pick it up locally at the Red Rocks Trading Post, Twist & Shout or Tattered Cover bookstores.
“Colorado has always had a strong tradition of artisans and craftsmen,” says Duber-Smith. “It’s just that kind of place.” But in recent years, local producers have recognized the growing value of the words “Handmade in Colorado” and turned strong consumer demand into a booming industry, he says. Few have been more successful than master woodworker Pat Scott, who transforms native woods by hand into wondrous kitchenware at Colorado Kitchen Heirlooms. And since his products aren’t easily found outside Colorado, they make an extra-special treat for relatives in distant lands.
Fortuna Chocolates are hand crafted in small batches in a mobile factory in Boulder, but every bean comes directly form single-estate cacao growers in Mexico. Give your loved one a taste of these treats and they'll swoon into a cocoa-induced heavenly state. This small but perfectly formed company specializes in producing tempting batches of handmade treats in mouthwatering flavors including the 70 percent pistachio nut (pictured).
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