On Tuesday we covered the breweries on the Front Range. Today we turn our attention to the Western Slope of Colorado and the breweries they have to offer. There’s isn’t as high of a concentration of people or breweries on the Western Slope, but we still managed to find plenty of great beer.
Amicas Pizza and Microbrewery, Salida
Sampler at Amicas
I really enjoyed our visit here. It would be very hard to go wrong with pizza and beer and this place gets it right. Delicious pizza and a nice range of beers. I was a little sad that they could not fill a growler due to some ongoing trouble with equipment. I wish I could remember all that we sampled as many of them were not the beers listed on their website. I do remember having a very good stout, a porter, as well as a good IPA. If you are going through Salida at lunch time, make time for Amicas.
A fairly new brewery, Horsefly is already very popular with the locals. We joined a couple of guys for drinks after our volunteer work on the pump track and were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of these brews. Sharon’s favorite was the Agave Brown Ale, in fact, she would rate it in the Top 5 Fall seasonals that we have tried.
Jay preferred the Highland Cycles Scottish Ale and the Extra Stout Ale, both strong flavorful beers that were well balanced and just plain delicious. Horsefly is a great happy hour spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends.
Palisade Colorado is known for wine and peaches, but their brewery is notable for having the most well-crafted beers in that part of the state. While we were there they had a High Desert Imperial Red on tap. We sat next to the brewmaster and he explained that with that red he was hoping to push the boundaries of what would be considered a red ale. This beer did exactly that with a great outcome, a very drinkable, strong flavorful ale.
For a beer that everyone can love, I would recommend the Paw Print Porter. It is a solid porter, well balanced and great for those cooler days. The brewmaster noted that Dirty Hippie is one of his signature beers. I though it was unique and appreciated the twist on a lager, but it was not my favorite. Palisade is primarily a tap room, but they do sell sandwiches which were quite good so it makes for a decent lunch stop.
Sampler at Palisade Brewing
Kannah Creek, Grand Junction
Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery
Kannah Creek is right by the Mesa State college campus and therefore caters to the college crowd with a large patio and big tvs inside to watch the game. Those students are lucky to have such a great selection of hand crafted beers to choose from.
They have a few seasonals that they rotate. We really enjoyed the Strong Ale, which was one of the seasonals on tap at the time. It was red in color, strong, but not boozy, with a geat balance of malt and hops.
Kannah Creek definitely seems to shine more when it comes to showcasing hops. They are actually starting to grow their own hops on the patio, which is exciting since their Fresh Hopped ESB was very well done. The Standing Wave Pale Ale is one of their award-winning beers and it deserves the praise. If you live locally I would recommend their growlers. They have the german styles that we have, but they have fancier fluted handles.
sampler at Ouray Brewery
swings in Ouray Brewery tap room
I wanted to like the Ouray brewery. They have these amazing swinging bar stools that are meant to look like a chair lift. Sitting at one in the bar is super fun. Unfortunately, Ouray is ready for the tourist crowd with overpriced samplers and a very small selection of their own brew. When we visited they had only four of their own on tap. However, we did hear that they are expanding production at a facility on the edge of town, so maybe a couple of years from now they would be worth a return visit.
For now, just stick with a pint of the IPA. It is really well done if you want hop flavor without a bitter aftertaste.
Sampler at Durango Brewery
Durango was one of the best breweries in terms of a welcoming hangout for beer lovers. To start with, they are right near the urban trail and have plenty of bike parking. Jay and I felt comfortable riding here and locking our bikes up outside. It was great to come via bike because I could really enjoy their large selection of brews. I started with the sampler which comes on a hand carved tray.
It was here I found one of my favorite beers for those cold Durango days, Durango’s Winter Ale. It reminds me of the Great Divide Hibernation Ale, but with a lower alcohol content. It has that same dark red color, malty flavor, and warming effect.
Carver is the oldest brewery in Durango, open since 1988. It seems more focused on the restaurant side of their operation and is a popular pub right in the fun downtown part of Durango. If you are looking for dinner with a good selection of craft beer to pair with it, I would strongly recommend Carver.
My favorites were the Nut Brown Ale and the Amber Ale. They had a seasonal beer with coffee in it when we were there. Usually that is one of my favorites, but this one was not well balanced.
Ska was on our short list of breweries to visit on this trip. They distribute Ska in Virginia so we were already fans of the Steeltoe Stout, Cutthroat Porter, and Milk Stout. I was excited to see what else we would be able to taste at the taproom.
We were excited to get to taste and take home two beers from their local series, the Hoperation Ivy and the Sethvleteren 8. Hoperation Ivy is an IPA with fresh local hops. It is bursting with flavor and is not too bitter. The Sethvleteren 8 is a Belgian Dubbel that is the opposite of the Hoperation, with much greater emphasis on the malt and the yeast flavors. It is almost sweet and easy drinking. Our usual favorites were still great, however the Milk Stout on nitro was too milky. It literally tasted like someone had poured cream into a normal stout. A new beer to meet was the Buster Nut Brown, which I liked even more than the porter.
Ska is definitely worth a visit, but there are a few things to know before you go. First, it is a little hard to find, use a GPS or get really good directions from the brewery. Also, in the summer they have a taco cart outside, but the rest of the year you need to either bring your own food (which they allow) or eat ahead of time. The closest food was a tasty Texas barbeque joint where we had lunch afterwards and really enjoyed. You could pick up a BBQ sandwich to bring with you! If you are not looking for a meal, they do provide free popcorn to snack on while you sample what’s on tap. Ska is a fun brewery with great style. They sponsor the local roller derby team. You can dress like a roller derby girl with Ska merchandise.
Our experience at Steamworks wasn’t great. It was packed to the gills when we arrived and we couldn’t get a server to take our order, much less a bar stool to sit on. I had been told that all of their servers are Cicerone certified, but we couldn’t even get one to talk to us so I have no first hand knowledge of their qualifications. When Jay was finally able to order a flight, he came back with the beers with a handwritten list on a napkin of what they were by name. Unfortunately we didn’t have a menu, so the name didn’t do us much good. We were drinking blind. This is how I ended up having the worst beer sampler of my life. I took one sip and I felt like I had been attacked. My tongue was in acute pain and I had no idea what had happened. Well, it turned out this was the Prescribed Burn, a chili beer featuring Habenero, Poblano, and Hatch green chilis. Oww! East coast palates be warned!! Jay of course kind of likes this chili beer which is the hottest he has tried.
After that debacle I went straight to Backside Stout for some relief. It was nice and smooth but honestly I couldn’t taste much of anything after that chili beer. Jay liked the Conducter, and Imperial IPA. The other beer that I remember is the Slam Dunkel. This was one of the first dunkels we have tried since the McKinney Brewery in Texas. The McKinney Dunkel was AMAZING, so the fact that Steamwork’s Slam Dunkel didn’t measure up doesn’t say much. It had too much banana taste.