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Women in Whiskey

As part of Women's History Month, we are highlighting women in various roles in the whiskey industry. For distilleries who offer tasting rooms, this is where the customer can connect to the product. Offering craft cocktails allows a customer to see what's possible with a whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, or gin.

This week, we chatted with Megan Heenan who is the tasting room manager at Bear Creek Distillery.


Q: What led you to a job at a distillery?

A: I've worked in the service industry since I was 16; kitchens, bars, food trucks, even an arcade. Craft cocktail bars and distilleries combine my favorite parts of the industry. The fast pace of being behind a bar, the culinary creativity that goes into creating new cocktails, the care and passion behind making and serving the best possible product. As far as Bear Creek specifically, I started as a customer and immediately fell in love with the place. My boyfriend was working at Declaration Brewing Co. down the street so it was the perfect place for a post-work drink. I was looking for a part-time job, just to pay for a tattoo I was starting, and before I knew it, one shift a week turned into my career.


Q: What is your favorite part about running the tasting room?

A: There are so many amazing things I get to be a part of. I love that I get to grow and develop alongside Bear Creek Distillery. I love seeing customers try a new cocktail and get just as excited as I am about it. I love teaching people about new spirits they may not have tried before or changing their mind about ones they thought they knew. The tasting room is an amazing bridge between education and recreation and I feel so fortunate to be trusted in running it.


Q: What is the process to develop new cocktails?

A: Dbo and I work closely together on our cocktail menus. We both have culinary histories and we turn to that when thinking up new drinks. Oftentimes I'll start with one flavor or ingredient that I've been interested in and play around with flavors to accompany it. For example, on our January menu I really wanted to use turmeric. So I started there and played around with different spirits, citrus, and herbs until we got a fun new drink that features our White Whiskey. Other times there may be an old school cocktail that I want to make a variation on or a new technique I want to try, so I'll build a drink around that. We also like to think seasonally. We use a lot of fresh produce in our drinks, so we try to develop cocktails that will support that.


Q: How does a spirit influence a certain flavor profile for cocktail?

A: Our different spirits lend themselves to different flavor pairings. Our Wheated Bourbon is slightly softer and sweeter than our Straight Bourbon, so I like to use it in either rich, dessert-y cocktails or in simple, spirit-forward drinks and balance the sweetness with a splash of bitters. On the other side, our new Corn Vodka is light and pillowy with a touch of vanilla. When making cocktails with that, I like to keep things on the lighter, citrusy side so the vodka can still shine through. I love all of our spirits and when making drinks, it is very important to me that the spirit isn't covered up by the other ingredients.


Q: What differentiates the cocktail program at Bear Creek from other tasting rooms?

A: There are so many great tasting rooms out there and in Denver alone! We put a lot of love into everything we do at Bear Creek. If we can make an ingredient in-house, we do. Since we only use liquor made at the distillery, we have to get creative in replicating some of the more familiar cocktail ingredients. I think that results in a more interesting drink while still tasting somewhat familiar. We focus on making elevated cocktails and offering enlightened hospitality, while also making our spirits and cocktails approachable. We want to share our products and our cocktails with everyone. Whether you are an avid Coors Light drinker who got brought in by a friend or a bourbon aficionado, we strive to make something for everyone to enjoy. The Bear Creek crew is a family. We were started by high-school friends who turned a hobby into so much more. I think that that friendship and passion is evident in our tasting room.


Q: Do you have a favorite cocktail or a favorite spirit with which you like to work?

A: I love all of our spirits for different reasons. I was never a rum drinker before I started at Bear Creek so I've had a lot of fun learning about our different rums and ways to use them behind the bar. I do have a soft spot for our single barrel, single grain whiskeys. Since each batch has slight variations, it's a lot of fun to taste them and work to highlight that particular whiskey.


Q: What do you believe women have brought to the distillery/spirits world over the past 5-8yrs?

A: It is so exciting to see more women celebrated in the industry! The distilling world has always been male-dominated and I think it's so important to have a varied field of opinions and ideas. That's how the best teams are made, full of people with different perspectives. I love seeing more and more distilleries, as well as other businesses within the industry, being led by women. We have been working with Whiskey Sisters Supply for all of our corn, for a few years now. I love supporting not only a local business, but one owned by women.

Q: Anything else that you’d like me to share?

A: I'd just like to take the time to say thank you to all of our amazing, loyal customers. This past year was tough for everyone and it has been so great to see the support throughout our community. We are so grateful and lucky to have people surrounding us that are so thoughtful and caring!

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