20 September 2013
The Beauty of Whiskey in a Strip Mall
Thank you, Living Social local deals, for introducing me to this oddly satisfying little whiskey bar nestled into the depressing strip mall at Drake Rd. and Timberline in Fort Collins, CO. If I turned the right way in my seat I could avoid the reflection of windshields lined up in front of King Sooper's and just gaze at my vested, arm-banded bartender pretending it was the 1930s.
William Oliver's Publick House is all that and even more, because once you get inside, it's a pretty nice place to be. You will curse the traffic and possibly help a senior male up the curb to his Great Clips destination, or possibly see a lady drop a watermelon outside the grocery store, but this place is actually doing a lot of things well. I only hope they can move out of this location if enough people visit. And if you're using the Living Social deal you got a few weeks back (every single person was doing so when I was there), be sure to tip on the full amount. Because they deserve it.
My Living Social deal was for a four 1/2-ounce flight of whiskeys and a snack tray from their sparse menu. I say it's sparse, but the menu is perfect and perfectly manageable--they make sandwiches, or you can choose from one of the very generously built appetizer platters. There's hummus and veggies, chips and salsa, or an artisanal cheese plate for the vegetarians in the crowd, or meat eaters can choose from smoked salmon or the Perfect Platter, which was loaded full of spicy, crisp pickled green beans, two very garlicky dill pickle spears, the largest white cheese curds I have ever seen in my life (and they were delightfully salty), some Irish cheddar, sliced corned beef and salami, and Fort Collins-made Nita crisps (also available in low-gluten varieties with any plate). It was delicious, the ingredients were high-quality (except for the bright yellow French's mustard. Spicy Coleman's really would have been stunning), and the plate was positively overflowing with food. Some people got the other Living Social deal for two pints of beer and two sandwiches, and the eager-to-please bartender made each and every one to order: "How's the mustard amount look? You want cheese?" I mean, really, they were killing themselves to please us.
Let's talk about the whiskey. My coupon limited me to the Colorado whiskeys available, which took up a full page in the menu and was so overwhelming I was grateful for the limitation. There were rye whiskeys, corn whiskeys, white whiskeys, single barrel bourbons, etc. etc. I wanted to try this place because it seemed like a low-cost way to experience some whiskey and try to learn something about it, and I did walk away with a (very expensive) favorite that I would definitely order again: Colorado's own Spring 44 Single Barrel Bourbon. It was rich and warm, with vanilla and tobacco overtones and a lightly smoky finish. It was actually delicious, and I am not easy friends with whiskey.
The menu at William Oliver's has 9 pages of whiskeys, bourbons, and even some moonshines, 2 pages of cocktails, and a nice, manageable page of snacks to go with your drinks. They offer plenty for non-whiskey drinkers, including straight spirits from local distilleries around the Front Range and some great local beers on tap. Coffee and tea are also available, and you know, I bet they're actually delicious. I do not think there is anything available at this place that they are not prepared to dazzle you with.
William Oliver's is actually a fantastic place in a terrible location. They would do well in Old Town or near the university, and I hope to see them do well enough to eventually be able to afford those high rent districts. In the meantime, please go to William Oliver's Publick House. Because I want to go back, and I don't want them to go out of business because no one wants to go there on the way to Starbucks.