LOVELAND – Jeff Lindauer will tell you — to make great spirits, you need great water. And he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
Back in the sixties, Lindauer’s dad bought a piece of land in Northern Colorado’s high country. As fate would have it, there was a natural artesian spring on the property, and drinking from its waters became something of a family tradition. “And through a crazy set of coincidences we discovered that the water was very well suited for making spirits,” Lindauer says.
Inspired by that realization, Lindauer and a friend began to experiment with product development and formulate a business plan for the Spring44 distillery in 2009. By 2011 they had moved into a facility in Loveland, and were in production the following year.
The business relies entirely on water from the spring, which is located a good distance up a dirt road, the last two-and-a-half miles of which are a steep jeep trail. But Lindauer says the logistics aren’t a problem. “We have an F-250 called ‘Tinkerbell’…kind of a search and recovery type of vehicle, and we take her up the hill, pull the water directly from the source and then come back down.”
Natural disasters haven’t slowed them down, either. While recent fires and floods in the area took their toll on the road, Lindauer says they now keep an excavator on site to keep the route clear.
Since the water is one of the most crucial ingredients, they go out of their way to make sure it never comes in contact with a municipal source. The only ‘processing’ they perform is to remove any particulates – the water isn’t put through any sort of chemical or carbon filtration. This, he feels, gives the gin and vodka produced by Spring44 a distinctive character.
Customers appear to agree. The company has doubled production year over year, thanks in part to a growing reputation. “We’ve started to develop a following of consumers,” Lindauer says, “and our penetration into the bars and restaurants has been pretty solid in Colorado.”
Nor is it limited to Colorado – Spring44 is already exporting its products to a dozen states, and will soon add Texas and Illinois to the list. Lindauer likens it to the steady increase in market share that craft beers have enjoyed over the last few years. “We’re trying not to get too far out over our skis,” he says, “but at the same time we want to capitalize on what we believe to be a pretty significant category opportunity.”
Despite the increased sales, the firm still maintains a small-town feel. “We’re huge,” Lindauer boasts with a sarcastic laugh. “We’re up to ten employees.” Still, he’s proud of his team and says they’ve all fallen in love with the business. “It’s an extraordinary intersection of disciplines – art, science, marketing and a whole bunch of different things that are fun to be a part of.”
As for the company name, Lindauer says it goes back to his father. “When we were kids, if you asked my dad a question, he would always answer ‘44’ as kind of a joke. If you asked him how old he was he’d say ‘44,’ or how much longer is it to grandma’s house, he’d say ‘44.’ And so that’s how we decided to brand ourselves.” No joke.