Colorado Aprés

Destinations by | Feb 2008 | Issue #13

It’s February. It’s cold and miserable out. So why leave the house?

Colorado’s legendary peaks and powder, for one. The state also happens to be pretty good at brewing craft beers. Here’s where the two meet beautifully—Colorado’s best après-ski spots, as rated by the BeerFly readers on BeerAdvocate.com.

We’ll start toward the state’s southwestern corner, in Purgatory. True to its name, the mountain resort, a longtime local favorite, is surrounded by not much at all—except the town of Durango, which sits a short ride down the San Juan Skyway, and is one of the state’s great rural brewing centers. Must-visits include the Carver Brewing Company, one of the state’s most established and most beloved brewpubs, and Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange, a bar boasting more ways to drink away that massive half-pipe spill than any other in the area. Then take the Skyway to Telluride, the bustling former mining boomtown that’s reinvented itself as a haven for the arts. There’s a pretty decent mountain up there, too, as well as Smugglers Brewpub—a pub heavy with Telluride’s new prospecting haul—GABF gold.

Interstate 70 is the state’s main east-west thoroughfare, and sitting on the middle of that road, surrounded by heaven-sent peaks, is the Gore Range Brewery—a perfect pit stop for road-trippers, not to mention a low-key spot for post-run drinks in the shadow of two big-ticket resorts, Beaver Creek and Vail.

Two absolutely massive resorts, Copper Mountain and Keystone, lie to the east. Don’t dither around the lodge, though—head just down the road, to the shores of the Dillon Reservoir. The Dillon Dam Brewery sits on the lake’s northern edge, in the town of Dillon, with the Backcountry Brewery minutes away.

Finish at one of Summit County’s great peaks—and one of the state’s most historic, picturesque resort towns—Breckenridge. The powder’s never-ending, and it’s a hell of a beer drinking town. Put the Breckenridge Brewery (killer old-school Ales) and Ullr’s Sports Grille (good beer on tap and better times) on your can’t miss list.

Carver Brewing Company
In a state long known for brewing great beers, Carver is one of the oldest, and most adventurous, brewpubs you’ll find. Old Oak Amber and Big Grizz Barleywine are classics, while nitro Oatmeal Pale Ale is a stone cold killer.

Steamworks Brewing Company
Steamworks is a massive warehouse masquerading as a pub in downtown Durango. If for nothing else, stop by for a Third Eye Pale Ale or a Conductor Imperial IPA—both fine brews.

Ska Brewing Company
Get the band back together! Ska Brewing cooks up craft beers with attitude. Their Steel Toe Stout and Ten Pin Imperial Porter pair nicely with a burger and a Toasters record.

Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange
Lady Falconburgh’s boasts one of the biggest beer selections in the Four Corners, with dozens on tap and a bottle list that easily tops the century mark.

Durango Brewing Company
Another little brewery serving up some damn fine beers. Durango’s Dark Lager, Pale and IPA are BeerAdvocate reader favorites.

Smugglers Brewpub and Grille
Fantastic beer in the middle of the wilderness. Smugglers brews up a fine, GABF Gold-winning Rye Ale, and their Imperial SkyHop IPA is massive—bigger than the mountains outside.

Mountain Dragon
The best beer bar in Aspen/Snowmass doubles as a pan-Asian restaurant. Tap lines full of Colorado’s best on one side, and sushi rolls and Thai on the other.

Breckenridge Brewery and Pub
Richard Squire’s Breckenridge Brewery cranks out gallons of his old homebrew recipes, nearly two decades after he took on the hobby full-time. Don’t miss his small-batch IPA and ESB.

Downstairs at Eric’s
Downstairs at Eric’s takes a standard beer bar, rolls in excellent pizza and calzones, and throws in a massive arcade and scores of screaming kids for good measure. At the very least, those hundred bottles will drown out the noise.

Ullr’s Sports Grille
Ullr’s is a loud, down and dirty beer bar, and the perfect respite from Breckenridge’s suffocatingly posh après-ski spots. Serving dozens of quality local beers, and zero pretension.

Dillon Dam Brewery
The Dam doesn’t stray far from traditional microbrew styles, and judging by the lines streaming out the door, the masses don’t seem to mind. Brown, Extra Pale and Chili Beer remain eternally popular.

Backcountry Brewery
Backcountry took a comfy slopeside lodge and plunked it down next to the Dillon Reservoir. Then they pumped it full of great pizza and one of the west’s greatest Breakfast Stouts. Who needs a slope, anyway?

Gore Range Brewery
An oasis of good beer on the heavily-trafficked I-70 corridor, Gore Range’s smooth, chocolaty, nitro-infused Biker Stout has no peer in the Vail Valley.

Calypso / Crested Butte Brewery [closed]
The old Crested Butte Brewery has been swallowed whole by Calypso, an island-themed brewpub that’s heavy on jerk and such. Luckily, it’s still serving up Crested Butte’s signature brews, including Red Lady Ale—an absolute monster when it’s fresh on tap.