by Dan Rabin
Dan Rabin is a Boulder-based freelance writer and author of the upcoming guidebook, Colorado Breweries (Stackpole Books, 2014). He has visited over 150 breweries across Colorado.
Great beer, like knee-deep powder, is best enjoyed fresh. Following a day on the slopes, few pleasures can match a pint or two of full-flavored craft beer served fresh at a brewery tasting room. Fortunately for beer-loving snow sport enthusiasts, friendly local breweries abound in Colorado Ski Country. However, with a plethora of choices, deciding on the perfect pour can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. Have no fear. The ales and lagers listed below have risen to the top of their class like a frothy head of foam rising in a glass. So when you’re in Colorado Ski Country, go local and enjoy one of these fine fermentations.
Ski Town: Aspen
Local Mountains: Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass
Hometown Brewery: Aspen Brewing Company
What to Drink: Conundrum Red Ale greets your palate with a sweet caramel character. The hops soon step to the forefront, providing a finish as crisp as the mountain air.
Ski Town: Buena Vista
Local Mountain: Ski Cooper
Hometown Brewery: Eddyline Brewery and Taproom
What to Drink: After a hard day of play, chill out with a pint or two of the aptly-named Kickin’ Back Amber Lager. Neither too sweet nor too dry, this amber elixir will hold your interest without assaulting your senses.
Ski Town: Crested Butte
Local Mountain: Crested Butte
Hometown Breweries: Eldo Brewery and Taproom
What to Drink: The sturdy maltiness of the English-inspired ESB provides a perfect accompaniment to a late afternoon session of people-watching from the deck overlooking Elk Ave.
Ski Town: Dillon
Local Mountain: Arapahoe Basin
Hometown Breweries: Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse and Brewery
What to Drink:
•Dillon Dam: Multiple-award-winning Sweet George’s Brown features a sweet malt base with chocolate overtones and just a touch of dry roastiness.
•Pug Ryan’s: Peacemaker Pilsner is a finely-crafted golden lager of classic Bohemian heritage.
Ski Town: Durango
Local Mountain: Purgatory
Hometown Breweries: Carver Brewing Company, Durango Brewing Company, Ska Brewing Company, Steamworks Brewing Company and Brew Pub & Kitchen
What to Drink:
•Carver: Zesty hop aromas and flavors stay a step ahead of a solid malt base in the well-balanced Jack Rabbit Pale Ale.
•Durango: Oft-decorated Durango Dark Lager is a clean-tasting and uncomplicated brew with a satisfying dry finish that keeps you coming back.
•Ska Brewing: After a day of testing your mettle on the steeps and bumps, you deserve a beer with an equally bold attitude. Modus Hoperandi IPA packs a wallop of pungent hops atop a sweet carmelly base. Not a beer for wimps.
•Steamworks: Colorado Kolsch proves that a beer can be light and quaffable yet still interesting. A pleasantly sweet graininess is perfectly balanced with a palate-cleansing kiss of hops.
•Brew Pub & Kitchen: The ever-changing selection of session beers features a winning combination of elevated flavors and low alcohol.
Ski Town: Frisco
Local Mountain: Copper Mountain
Hometown Brewery: Backcountry Brewery
What to Drink: With a subtle touch of citrus and spice, the American-style Wheat Ale is an easy-drinking quencher to quell a savage thirst.
Ski Town: Glenwood Springs
Local Mountain: Sunlight
Hometown Brewery: Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company
What to Drink: Mildly-sweet with a modest demeanor, St. James Irish Red is an approachable brew that doesn’t demand your undivided attention.
Ski Towns: Grand Junction and Palisade
Local Mountain: Powderhorn
Hometown Breweries: Kannah Creek Brewing Company, Palisade Brewing Company and Rockslide Restaurant and Brewery
What to Drink:
•Kannah Creek: Land’s End Amber, a German-style Altbier, is a great anytime ale with a clean malt sweetness delicately balanced with a dry hoppy finish.
•Palisade Brewing: When you’re thirsting for a hop fix, but without the intensity of an IPA, High Desert Red is your liquid meal ticket. This amber ale features a hoppy aroma and flavor with a palate-cleansing hit of bitterness in the finish.
•Rockslide: Big Bear Stout weaves a tapestry of sweet chewy malt and dry roastiness into a deceptively-potent package.
Ski Town: Idaho Springs
Local Mountain: Loveland
Hometown Brewery: Tommyknocker Brewery
What to Drink: Butt Head Bock, a traditional German-style bock beer, will entice you with its clean malt character. But beware. This smooth seductress packs a powerful punch.
Ski Town: Nederland
Local Mountain: Eldora
Hometown Breweries: Very Nice Brewing Company and Wild Mountain Smokehouse & Brewery
What to Drink:
•Very Nice: Can’t decide between a chocolatey dark ale and a hoppy IPA? Logical Fallacy, an India Black Ale, combines the best of both worlds in a dark complex spicy brew.
•Wild Mountain: Hot Diggity IPA plays a hop symphony on a bass line of nutty maltiness. Bitterness is neither understated nor overaggressive.
Ski Town: Pagosa Springs
Local Mountain: Wolf Creek
Hometown Brewery: Pagosa Brewing & Grill
What to Drink: The award-winning Poor Richard’s Ale is a most statesmanlike brew. First concocted to commemorate Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday, this slightly spicy yet quaffable creation is indigenously-flavored with molasses and corn.
Ski Town: Poncha Springs and Salida
Local Mountain: Monarch
Hometown Breweries: Amicas Pizza & Microbrewery, Elevation Beer Company and Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub
What to Drink:
•Amicas: The locals’ favorite Headwaters IPA has just enough malty backbone to carry its big hop flavors through to a lingering finish.
•Elevation Brewing: The clean, refreshing 8 Second Kolsch won’t frighten timid palates nor lose the interest of more seasoned imbibers.
•Moonlight Pizza: If PBR is your go-to brew, you’ll have no trouble transitioning to MoonLite Cream Ale. This American Light Lager has a lightly sweet flavor up front with just a whisper of hops in the finish.
Ski Town: Silverton
Local Mountain: Silverton
Hometown Brewery: Avalanche Brewing Company
What to Drink: If you could capture mountain air in a glass, it would taste like White-Out Wit. With a subtle spiciness to pique your senses, this is the beer to go to when several beers are on your itinerary.
Ski Town: Steamboat Springs
Local Mountains: Steamboat and Howelsen Hill
Hometown Brewery: Mahogany Ridge
What to Drink: A little sweet and a little spicy, Alpenglo Amber is the locals’ choice and a worthy companion for a mellow sipping session.
Ski Town: Telluride
Local Mountains: Telluride
Hometown Breweries: Smuggler Joe’s Brew Pub and Telluride Brewing Company
What to Drink:
•Smuggler Joe’s: Nothing attacks a parched palate like a big hit of hops. San Juan Skyhop is a satisfying solution for those who like their beers bold.
•Telluride Brewing: There’s a reason Face Down Brown was awarded gold medals at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. This slightly sweet, slightly nutty brown ale is a dark beer for people who think they don’t like dark beers.
Ski Town: Winter Park
Local Mountains: Winter Park and Ski Granby Ranch
Hometown Brewery: Library Sports Grill & Brewery
What to Drink: Like a meal in a glass, Oats and Cream Oatmeal Milk Stout is rich, smooth and full-bodied.