Frozen Dead Guy Days Chocolate Tour and the Corpse Reviver cocktail

‘What did you do this weekend?’ 
‘I went up to the mountains to see a dead guy who is cryonically frozen in dry ice and is kept in a Tuff Shed on the side of a mountain.  What did you do?’
Isn’t that how your week started?  Every area has its avant-garde or bohemian proclivities and it’s taken me a decade to drive the 30 minutes to experience ours in Northern Colorado: Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland Colorado.  I’ve heard of it as it is well publicized locally (and frankly now by the New York Times and Huffington Post), with a bit of an eye roll here in ‘the Republic of Boulder’ as those in Ned refer to us down the hill.  I don’t know why I have not gone to check it out.  Busy.  Will go next year.  You know how it goes.  This year I decided I needed to make it happen especially when learning that one could tour said Tuff Shed where ‘Grandpa’ is kept and it would be a chocolate tour.  There is no cacao grown in Colorado so I was all the more intrigued.

Knees bent, sense of humor in full swing I braved the hurricane gale winds to head up to Nederland to check it all out.  Fortunately I had targeted Sunday as the wind gusts caused the festival to shut down on Saturday which is apparently historically unheard of.  The infamous Coffin Races (a team of racers in dramatic and macabre garb tote a coffin-jockey teammate through an obstacle course), Frozen Turkey Bowling and Frozen Salmon Toss would be moved into an already busy Sunday.
As with many of my outings I was unsure exactly what to expect.  I was up to speed on the history of all of this.  ‘Grandpa’ Bredo lived a long and fruitful life in Norway though when he died his Grandson organized that he’d be ‘iced’ until the required technology to reanimate him was available.  As I understand it this is ‘nanotechnology’, computer coded something-or-rather that will allow a fully intact body, regardless of how old, to be brought back to life.
There are only a handful of places in the world that both have the capability to prepare a body for a long icy wait and where it is legal.  Those readers in the U.S. may be disturbed to learn the U.S. is one such place.  So Grandpa was sent to California from Norway to be readied for his indefinite deep freeze.  Grandson Trygve, who I learned specializes in life-extending practices for mere mortals in Norway (slapping with willow sticks, coffee enemas and uber freezing ice water plunges) came along with Grandpa until he was deported back to Norway.
The photo of Grandpa Bredo which hangs from the inside rafters of the Tuff Shed tomb
At this stage Aud, Grandpa’s daughter, took over his care until she was kicked out as well.  Her tale is a bit murkier in the detail.  In the meantime, Bo Shaffer (a.k.a. Bo the Iceman) was hired in the mid 90’s to tote 1600-1800 pounds of dry ice monthly up the winding mountain road to the shed were Grandpa rests in chilly peace.  One might imagine Nederland as a pretty progressive burg to allow all of this however it too had laws in place about keeping corpses of any specifies at one’s home.  The circumstances of Grandpa persuaded an amendment to the town law to allow him to be kept but no additional ‘home projects’ such as this to be allowed; Grandpa was ‘grandfathered’ in before the permanent law was enacted.  Literally, not a pun.
We met up with Bo and other interested tour goers at 9:30 on a still cold and blustery day.  We were each packed into multiple vehicles including two guys who ‘manned up’ and rode al fresco in the back of Bo’s heavily bumper stickered pickup truck.  Our driver shared he was ‘a professional Chinese Cuisine transportation expert’ in his daily  life and ensured all of us were coursing with adrenaline when almost backing off a cliff while attempting a mountainside hairpin turn (connecting the dots on why we all signed a waiver before departing).   
The view from the Tuff Shed toward Eldora Mountain Ski Resort
We landed on the top of a windswept peak in front of a completely klugy looking cement-meets-Medieval-Times type structure, which we learned was the domicile of Trygve and Aud when living in Nederland, as well as the prototype of a one-size-fits-all sustainable house of Trygve’s design.  A sort of geodesic dome that can be fully buried with other stuff thrown in for good measure like being fire proof, earthquake proof, kind of any-natural-disaster proof.  The house was never completed nor the plan to sell them en masse as Trygve intended.  One of the home’s features was an intended underground tunnel leading to Grandpa’s sarcophagus which would all be buried. To put this into context the distance between the two is about 25 feet.  Go figure.

THE Tuff Shed where Grandpa is housed, Bo-the-Iceman, Cryogenic Crypt Keeper and an instructional post inside the door of the Tuff Shed

Back to not knowing what to expect on this excursion, what I did NOT expect so much information.  And interesting information.  Admittedly I know nothing about Cryonics.  Now I do and would personally be a bit freaked out at being revived in my 90 year old body (essentially Grandpa’s age at his death in 1989; 88 to be exact) in an age far in the future, if it really is to happen.  Bo-the-Iceman swung open the doors to the Tuff Shed where Grandpa lies in a cabinet of sorts on the floor.  Bo adeptly opened the top doors lined with bubble type wrap to allow us to peer in. 
At this point it began to seem a bit freaky to me.  When looking in one can see a pillow and blanket, as if Grandpa had been napping there and went out for a walk.  It’s unclear why those objects are there but I suppose to give some sense of personal comfort to this icy womb.  Below this bedding lies Grandpa, encased in a coffin guarded by large link chain.  There was discussion of eventually making a cut out and plexiglass insert to actually see his face but fortunately we were spared.
Slabs of dry ice being carried to Grandpa’s enclosure, piles of the dry ice on the ‘coffin’, Bo pointing out Grandpa’s constant freezing temp of -60 degrees F
We were given the opportunity to fetch dry ice from an adjoining industrial strength cooler to add to Grandpa’s habitat.  This took on the uneasy feel of making a shrine offering and a sense of volunteerism to aid Bo with the needed ice load.  I however was too busy taking photos of Grandpa’s liquor cabinet sporting coordinating booze such as Old Granddad’s Whiskey (which incidentally Keith Richards, of Rolling Stones fame, has been known to drink on stage and after spending an evening a foot away from him at a Dublin bar once I will say it’s a miracle that he is alive from the looks of him so Old Granddad’s must be working) and Dead Guy Ale.  10 a.m. on a Sunday is a smidge early to attend a service at the Church of Booze for me however there is a midnight tour of the Tuff Shed which I’m sure is a ‘well hydrated’ frolic thanks to Grandpa.  Bo had also offered, knowing I’m a food writer, that  I could try the 100 year old birthday cake from 2001, the remnants of which have also remained on ice.  It is the first time I felt being gluten free was in my favor.

After touring the adjoining house, learning about Trygve’s escapades and Cryonics, Bo handed out our chocolate (remember this is a chocolate tour).  It was in the image of Grandpa, specially made by Concertos in Chocolate in Boulder.  The sentiment of the chocolate was to call our attention to the diminishing cacao trees in the world.  The chocolate was great, locally crafted AND in the image of Grandpa.  One has to love it.
There was a bit too much information to digest and frostbite to mitigate when the tour ended 90 minutes after we’d initially began our wind up the mountain for our visit with the dearly departed.  We considered other activities on the roster in the town now pulsating with throngs of festival goers.  We weren’t feeling the Brain Freeze Contest (where contestants eat frozen foods and whomever suffers the longest wins), the Polar Plunge (I had three layers on; the idea of stripping down to dive into frigid water at the potential of heart failure wasn’t calling to me either) or the Extreme Air Guitar competition (I’m having a shoulder issue otherwise it would have been ‘Party On Garth’ for me).  The Newly Dead game, based on the Newlywed game and assuming the Corpse Pose at the local yoga studio both eluded me as well.

I decided instead to meander back down the hill to Boulder and whip up the recipe for the festival’s star cocktail, the Corpse Reviver.  I had spoken with Norm, the bartender from Aji restaurant in Boulder who mastered the recipe for festival goers.  There are traditionally several versions of the Corpse Reviver which is a cocktail in the ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ category of drinks.  Harry Craddock, famed bartender of the Savoy Hotel in London in the early 1900’s advises ‘taken before 11 a.m. or whenever steam and energy are needed’ for one version and warns taking four of another version in swift succession will UNrevive the corpse again!*
I will say Norm’s festival-icizing of this cocktail is completely perfect.  It is a wonderful appley libation that is easy on the palate but ‘get’s the job done’.  I can only imagine the festival attendees who opted for the VIP pass including the ‘bottomless cup’ would have  been blissfully wobbling through town after 1 or 2 of these cocktails (and one gets the feeling that may be at the heart of this celebration for many). 

A proper presentation of the Corpse Reviver cocktail in a cocktail or Martini glass; white chocolate Grandpa given to us on the tour
Corpse Reviver cocktail – Dead Guy Festival Style
Traditional versions of the Corpse Reviver are all booze.  Suspecting die hard festival goers may be existing in a perpetual state of hangover during the festival weekend, my hat is off to Norm for taming it with a bit of juice.  I used unfiltered organic apple juice which has a beautiful, well rounded flavor elevating the drink to a new fave.
  • 1 ½ ounce Bourbon
  • 1 ½ ounces Apple Juice
  • Top with Gingerale
For festival ambiance, serve in a 12 ounce compostable cup.  Otherwise it is tradition to serve in a cocktail or martini glass.

I rarely conclude my posts with morals but will say attending this festival falls into the ‘moral of the story’ category of don’t let grass grow beneath your feet.  It’s easy when having lived somewhere for awhile to become a slave to habit and neglect striking out to events or festivities that might not be what you’d normally do or can put off.  Despite the cool skull graphics of the Frozen Dead Guy Festival Bo was quick to remind us the intent is about being alive; celebrating and remembering that, even through the madcap hijinks of bowling with a frozen turkey.
There have been documentaries made about Grandpa’s saga, books written as well as international media coverage.  It’s been rated as one of the best festivals to attend in the U.S.  A little view through this video may provide insight why….or not!  (Blog subscribers: click on title in subscription email to view on blog website).

*The Savoy Cocktail Book (Pavillion Books, UK 2011)              

Comments

  1. says

    Ok, you definitely have too much fun! But I don't know what I find more disturbing, freezing grandpa or the coffee enema!
    Thanks for taking us on a tour of the event it did sound like a fun day, and I never knew Boulder was a Republic!

    • says

      It is one of the best displays of creativity around an event ever. The festival is now 3 days long, packed with lots of activities, mostly zany, all with this common theme. And lots of drinking I presume! On Saturday night they have an event called the 'Blue Ball', bands, dancing and drinking. It's all very cheeky and fun loving. I also did not realize Boulder was considered a Republic. I think that is from the outside looking in!

  2. says

    This has to be one of the most odd trips I have read about. If one is considering the idea of being iced then at least there is a place to learn about it first hand. Sounds way to cold to visit though.

    • says

      Our tour guide admitted on the side that two people who attended the tour prior confessed they have been practicing this with their goldfish. Slowly freezing and thawing them (can only imagine PETA's thoughts on that). And they have been partially successful with the 'reanimation' process (now you have some lingo to throw around at the next cocktail party you attend!). I suspect there are many devotees to this concept internationally being attracted to prolonging life. For me, I have watching too many Sci Fi TV shows and know my own mind. Waking up who knows how many years later when everyone I know is dead, in a world I don't know; not for me. I'd rather live large now and strive to a 'no regrets' maximizing of life now!

  3. says

    How freakin' bizarre. Seriously. I love my dad so much, but the first thing he would do when thawed out and healed if I ever did something like this would be to kill me. He's old; he's lived' he's loved. And to spend the money like that? Wow. It was fun to read this though. I do love your writing style and can't imagine that anyone else would have been able to keep my so engrossed through the entire piece. Thanks for that.

    • says

      Well my friend there is more. One question is what will happen in the future with Grandpa's care. Currently the money to support this effort is coming from Aud, Grandpa's daughter who was evicted from the house and sent back to Norway. It is unclear when the nanotechnology will be available to reanimate him (or attempt it) and therefore how long funds will be needed to support his condition. Our tour guide shared were the icing to stop he estimates Grandpa would thaw in 30-60 days. Then what? And thank you for your kind compliment about my writing!

  4. says

    Ah Frozen Dead Guy Days. We did Bo's book and the folks in Charleston were blown away by the idea of this festival. Just one of many things that makes this area completely unique!

    • says

      Were they blown away by the festival or that fact there is a dead guy 'on ice' in a non-descript mountainside shed?! I think the festival proves the joyous aspect of human nature that can make a party from almost any circumstance! To look at the roster of activities crafted for this occasion which all stay 'on theme' it's pretty impressive.

  5. says

    I've always thought this tale something of an embarrassment for Colorado; when it was played out across the national news so prominently several years ago I cringed. I've never taken the tour but admit I drove my kids up there 'just cause.' Not totally unlike them wanting to be in line the first night Krispy Kreme opened; they wanted to feel a part of something happening in Colorado!

    Every single time I think of this lunacy I can't help but also think of how a piece of meat looks after being in my freezer for a year. Thankfully it's not a woman; because if this was ever possible, she would take one look at her skin and wish she were dead. :)

    • says

      First, hat's off to you Barb for being a parent who would induldge her kids in such folly! I feel confident one does not cross paths with such an event often in their lifetime; would be a shame to miss it. Secondly, after I stopped laughing, it did strike me as a cruel hand of fate to wake from a long slumber and unlike Sleeping Beauty arise with a wicked case of facial freezer burn making an already 90 year old face look like beef jerky. I am unclear they considered 'life extension at what cost?'

  6. says

    Wow, this sounds kind of crazy. I had never heard of this! Sounds like… an experience? But hey, I like skull shaped chocolate for dia de los muertos, why not for this, too?

    • says

      'An experience' would be an understatement I'm sure Kiri as the video gives hint of. It is unusual and I was glad to partake. I loved the quirkiness of it and learned alot.

  7. says

    My brother lives in Cold Creek Canyon, but I have never heard him talk about this. I'll have to ask him. sounds like you had a very interesting time:)

  8. says

    What a cool (no pun intended!) way to spend a weekend! I too would have to pass on the birthday cake weather I was gluten free or not (over 10 years even iced is a bit too long for cake… now alcohol, that's a different story!). I love the cocktail and those chocolate skull heads, they remind me of the Dia de los Muertos skulls.

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