Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Collected Colorado Brewcation Journals - Part One

This June, I traveled to Colorado for my wife's cousin's wedding in Crested Butte. As we often do, we turned our little trip into a full-blown beer vacation. 15 breweries in seven days. Apparently we were up to the challenge. Over the next few days, I'll be posting the collected journals from this week in a beer lover's paradise, as well as a full photoset from the trip.




Day One

My wife and I flew into Denver mid-morning, late enough that most people were at work, but early enough that we needed to occupy ourselves until any breweries would even think about opening up. We found a local coffee shop and planted ourselves on the patio to take in the crisp, not-as-polluted-as-Chicago air. A quick search on the ever-present mobile device told us what we feared...not many breweries would be open until noon. Luckily, to an extent at least, one would be opening its doors at 11am and it just happened to be right down the street.

Breckenridge Colorado Craft: 

Just north of Coors Field, nestled among the developing brick building district surrounding the Colorado Rockies baseball stadium, Breckenridge Brewery's city brewpub, Breckenridge Colorado Craft, marked our first beer stop of our trip. Flights were available, but they're dominated by beers you've likely had, or at least seen somewhere. This place definitely had that "almost commercial chain" feel to it. Everything was almost too clean, too new, and trying too hard to feel like a brewery. The staff was (just) friendly enough, but not going out of their way to visit or find out what brought us to town and recommending only their standard offerings, like the Vanilla Porter or Agave Wheat. We filled our bellies on the standard pub food menu, knowing it would likely be our only chance to eat for a while, and moved on.
Breckenridge Colorado Craft in Denver, Colorado

Great Divide Brewing Company:

A few blocks east of Breck, Great Divide Brewing Company took another route altogether with a small, intimate taproom attached to their production brewery. A dozen of their taps, including some rarities and small batches, lined the wall behind the bar. A favorite quickly rose to the top for me: their Colette Farmhouse Ale. No food here, reinforcing our good decision-making earlier, but plenty of smiles and joking staff members who gave us tips on other places to visit while in the state. It's always a pleasure to be able to see all of the action of brewday beyond the taproom window and into the brewery itself.
Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado

River North Brewery:

A bit further north of the stadium, River North Brewery felt like a local corner brewery should. Wide open doors let the outside air merge into the casual, still dim atmosphere inside where a small taproom overlook the brewery itself.Exceptionally friendly staff served up beer you just won't find anywhere else, aside from a bomber or tap here and there around town. Still at the nano scale, they're doing everything themselves, from brewing to marketing to self-distributing. Hands down best beers of day one, including their J Marie Saison and Belgian quad called Quandary, of which we picked up a bomber for later on in our trip.
River North Brewery in Denver, Colorado

By the time we finished up, our long flight and miles of walking were talking their toll on us. We headed to our hotel and met up with my in-laws for a late dinner and early lights-out to prepare for the next day-long road trip through the Rockies.

Day Two

Amica's Pizzaria and Brewery:

Friday morning, we all headed out from Denver to Crested Butte, our destination for the family wedding. Along the way, we stopped in Salida for lunch at Amica's Pizzaria and Brewery. We grabbed a quick flight to sample what they had to offer before heading on. The Double Wide Oatmeal Stout stood out, caramel and toffee bombarding the tongue. After trying the Big S Brown, my father-in-law learned the easy way that he likes brown ales, or at least this particular one. We finally paid up and headed west, over Monarch Pass, through Gunnison, and then turned north to reach Crested Butte.
Bright Tank at Amica's Pizzaria and Brewery in Salida, Colorado

After checking into our hotel, we met the rest of the family, both sides, at the pre-wedding celebration. On tap: Pacifico Clara. Sure, not my top choice, but as a light lager quench your thirst while playing softball, horseshoes, and frisbee at high altitude, it work quite well.

Afterwards, we swung into a local tavern, The Last Steep, for a late dinner. A small tap listing included Avery Ellie's Brown Ale, a fitting end to the days travels and festivities.

Up Next:

Day Three - Eldo Brewery in Crested Butte
Day Four - Drinking on the Great Divide and Eddyline Brewing in Buena Vista