If you take the roads less travelled in Southwest Colorado there are some interesting breweries you deserve to encounter. Our first stop had to be Dolores River Brewpub.
Mark Youngquist founded this very small (I recall it was a 3-barrel system) brewery in a community of less than 300 residents as a labor of love. Mark began his brewing career in Boulder, Colorado as the Walnut Brewery’s first head brewer. Soon that company built other breweries and the Rock Bottom Brewery chain was born with Mark at the helm as corporate brewmaster. After several years of helping develop the company’s brewing systems he wanted to live in a smaller community and eventually open his own brewpub. It took many years, but it eventually happened. If you go you will be mingling with the locals and enjoying great pizza and extraordinary beer along the lines of pale ale, stouts and porters.
After overnighting in the nearby motel, we continued east and stopped by Tony Simmons’ Pagosa Brewing Companyin Pagosa Springs. Tony started the brewery as a mix of packaging and a tap room, but found the demand at the tap room warranted an evolution of his brewery to become a brewpub restaurant. He highlights locally and Colorado grown and produced foods. There you can have the best grass feed beef burgers within hundreds of miles. And the astounding variety of beers could keep you occupied for several days. We only had one short afternoon and tried a handful before moving on to the high valley town of Alamosa.
Alamosa is a farm town. Surrounded by fields of barley, grains and grassland that extend to the horizons or to the distant mountains. In Alamosa there are two destinations. First stop was newly founded Colorado Malt Company. One seems to drive endlessly on perpendicular straight line county roads until you arrive to their small operation on the Cody family dairy farm. The malt house and equipment are entirely self-fabricated, reminding me of the spirit of the early microbreweries in the 1980s. Nearby their germinating and drying building was a newly built facility hoping to more than double their capacity. They are providing pale malt for small brewers. They are also malting specialty grains and specialty types of malt which are difficult to produce in large facilities.
A visit is nothing less than inspiring in this place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Obviously the malt energy reaches far and wide as I learn one Idaho brewer desiring to brew a local beer, sent down a load of Idaho barley to have it malted for a special edition ale they were preparing to offer to their best customers.
Colorado maltster Wayne Cody, his wife and our family rendezvoused at the downtown San Luis Valley Brewpub for dinner. I’d been here before and their brewpub continues to offer beers quenching the local farm thirst – an excellent Mexican-style lager alongside IPA, brown ales and stouts. The brewpub is in an old city bank building and the bank vault door with all its gears and intricacies are in full view and offer an interesting visual diversion after a few brews.
Next day we headed the long day’s journey back to Boulder County, but not before stopping at Eddyline Brewpubin Buena Vista, Colorado. Nearby is a creek featuring kayaking. But the real treat is a full line of Eddyline’s true to style lagers and ales. The brewpub is setting up a 15 barrel brewing facility closer to downtown Buena Vista and retaining the restaurant as a feature. Both should be operational by this time. There’s terrific food here and a super comfortable and relaxing ambiance. Brewer Scott used to work for Dominion/Fordham brewery in Delaware before moving west… I’m sure Buena Vista locals are glad he did.
After lunch, a taste of their sampler and a quick view of their then existing 5 or 6 barrel brewhouse – we were headed home to my lagering and conditioning homebrew