With more than 18,000 different products, Hazel’s Beverage World is a wonderland for beer lovers, spirit hounds and oenophiles. The 35,000 square-foot store at 28th and Walnut is locally owned and, in addition to being well-stocked, the knowledgeable employees (known as the “flight crew”) can help you understand the difference between pinot gris and pinot grigio and point you to the must-try seasonal beers and bottles you need to build a respectable bar cart.
We checked in with the experts at Hazel’s, who shared with us the backstory of the store’s aviation theme, dished on the non-alcoholic cocktail movement and revealed the sips that will win over everyone at your dining room table.
What’s the backstory on the aviation theme at Hazel’s Beverage World? How is it threaded throughout the store?
Bruce Dierking, Hazel’s owner: When we decided to open the store, we knew we wanted a strong, unique brand that people would come to love—something that might eventually be like McGuckin. Many liquor stores are unbranded or have very weak brands, and we wanted to be different and create a brand that would be memorable.
The name Hazel’s and the WWII Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (or WASP) theme came about from a combination of family history, love of aviation, wanting to cultivate a vintage brand and seizing an opportunity to recognize an amazing group of women who did not receive the appreciation they deserved for their service to our country.
What sets Hazel’s apart from other liquor stores?
BK: More than anything, our Flight Crew is what separates Hazel’s from other stores. Many of our team members have been with us for years, and they really know their stuff.
We take a lot of pride in providing friendly service and educating customers about the products we sell. We are also proud to be locally owned and operated, with just one store. We are a Boulder-based family business, not a big chain or corporation. The dollars customers spend in Hazel’s get circulated right back here in our local community.
Tell us about the in-store events you have.
BK: Every Friday we have free in-store product tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. We also regularly have special events, games, giveaways and other fun stuff happening at the store.
A couple of examples of current on-premise events are the Zombie Shoot, Turkey Bowling, St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Master’s Mini Golf and our annual car show in June/July.
We like to involve our vendors in unique ways and have something enjoyable and interactive for our customers as well.
Our biggest event is the Scratch Off Contest, which usually runs for two months and we give away an all-inclusive trip with a sponsor. In the past, we have sent customers to Germany for Oktoberfest and Kentucky for a Bourbon Trail Tour, and we are planning trips to Jalisco for a tequila-inspired tour and to Orlando for the Galaxy’s Edge Theme Park.
What are you excited about for this year?
BK: One big thing we have planned for 2023 is to reconfigure our parking lot to make entering and exiting from Walnut easier. This has been a long-term project involving the city, our neighbors and a lot of engineering analysis to come up with the safest and most functional design for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Once implemented, this new configuration will make it much more convenient and safe for our customers.
What do you love about doing business in Boulder?
BK: Boulder is one of the most beautiful and unique towns in the country, and we feel lucky to be here. The people of Boulder are smart, curious and adventurous, and they love local and unique products. That combination allows us to have one of the most diverse selections of any liquor store in the U.S.
Can you share a favorite wine-and-cheese pairing that we should be putting on our charcuterie boards this season?
Joe Tedesco, Hazel’s wine department manager: A great go-to cheese pairing for most any dry red or white wine is Manchego—a delicious, semi-hard cheese produced from sheep’s milk. Although it will get flakier as it ages, a young Manchego isn’t quite as sharp as an Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, making it easier to eat a lot of it.
What unique wines would you point people to?
JT: There are many unique wines in our store, either by way of rare varieties like Piculit Neri, Timorasso, and Pais, or by way of winemaking process. Orange wines, Vin Jaume, fortified wines, Pet Nats and Piquettes are some examples.
What local bottles should be on our bar carts right now?
Max Girardin, Hazel’s liquor department manager: We carry tons of local spirits here. I personally recommend the Leopold Brother’s Summer Gin. Also our newest addition to our whiskey set, Taluka Single Pot Still Whiskey, is phenomenal.
If Boulder had an official cocktail, what would it be and why?
MG: The margarita. It’s the top-selling cocktail at every single restaurant and bar in the area. For a good local twist on it, try a coin style: Three parts lime juice, two parts tequila and one part Grove Street Alchemy Orange Liqueur that’s made nearby in Longmont.
Why do you think low-ABV and non-alcoholic drinks have been catching on lately?
MG: The rise of the lower ABV and non-alcoholic drinks has been an interesting trend in our industry. I would guess that this trend is being driven by the fact that people are realizing that many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar content and calorie count. Health-conscious drinkers are looking for a more responsible buzz, and are exploring options other than seltzers.
How about the low-ABV and non-alcoholic beer trend? Do you have any you can recommend?
Sarah Hansen, Hazel’s beer department manager: People like the taste of beer but maybe don’t necessarily want to get buzzed or drunk. We’ve seen huge growth over the past few years in this category, both in sales, but also in variety.
My current favorite low-ABV “session” beer is a seasonal offering from a local brewery. “Lower” is a table saison from TRVE Brewing out of Denver. It comes in at 2.8 percent and it’s light and refreshing, with a balanced dryness and very subtle funk that doesn’t linger.
As for an NA beer, my current favorite is Brooklyn Brewery’s Special Effects IPA. It’s light and hoppy with minimal malty sweetness that I often find in other NA IPAs. It’s refreshing and often satisfies the “I want a beer” feeling at the end of a long day.
Looking for something new to sip? Here are some recommendations from Hazel’s beverage experts.
Oka Kura Japanese Bermutto
“Oka Kura Bermutto is a delightful Japanese take on vermouth. It’s made by fortifying sake with shochu, yuzu, kabosu and sansho pepper. It’s much crisper than a traditional vermouth and very clean on the palate. I recommend using it in place of blanc or rouge vermouth in traditional cocktails. Try it with Suntory Roku Gin for a citrus-forward martini, or with club soda and a lemon peel on the rocks for a refreshing drink.”—Liquor Department Manager Max Girardin
“If it was made in the U.S., it might be called a brandy. In France, it would be an eau de vie. In Peru or Chile, a pisco. Singani 63 is similar to all of these things, yet it undeniably stands alone. Sporting its own designation of origin and geographical indication, Singani 63 is a distillate of fermented muscat de alexandria from Bolivia, an ancient grape varietal that was introduced by a group of Spanish missionaries in the 16th century. It’s very floral, with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and honeysuckle. Freshly peeled lemon grounds it and acts as a foil for the complexity of the spirit. Singani 63 is incredibly versatile and a fun bottle for any level of mixologist to play with and create their own new cocktails.—Liquor Department Manager Max Girardin
“Primitive Beer is a family-owned blendery based in Longmont that specializes in 100 percent spontaneously inoculated oak-fermented beers. They produce lambic-style beers that go through the whole traditional Belgian Lambic process of turbid mashed, koelschip inoculated, and barrel fermented. The owners love to support their local communities, so all of their ingredients are sourced from Colorado. Their beers have a refreshing tartness and a contemplative funk, and are meant to be enjoyed fresh or aged for years to come. Options include carbonated bottles and uncarbonated bag-in-box.”—Beer Department Manager Sarah Hansen
Birra Baladin’s Xyauyù
“Xyauyù is an experiment that started in 2004. It takes one of the most typical flaws in beer—oxidation—and turns it into a strength. Xyauyù is a macro-oxidized Italian beer that pours flat and clear with a ruby red color. You will get notes of nougat, dates and dry plums on the nose and flavors of nougat and dates that finish tasting of fudge. We have three different versions of this beer available in 500ml bottles, Oro (reserve), Fumè (whiskey barrel-aged) and Barrel (rum barrel-aged). —Beer Department Manager Sarah Hansen