Guest blog provided by Amy Dodson, ‘I’d Order That’ Food & Lifestyle Photo Essayist and Journaler from the Southwest, based in Durango.
When I began this article, my friends at Durango Area Tourism Office suggested the headline and I thought “that’s clever, how perfect” because we Durangoans are more than happy to support our craft breweries. Then I began meeting with the owners, master brewers … people who are passionate about keeping true to their standards, and I found that they all know and respect one another, have most likely worked for each other at some point, share recipes, and want their fellow brewers to succeed and grow. As one brewer pointed out, their mantra is “Collaboration not Competition.” A community of committed support … devoted to continually improving the quality of their craft. How lucky for Durango … this really is a City of Brewerly Love.
Following are the six craft breweries of Durango, and a couple bonus watering holes… in no particular order …
The Southwest’s original brew pub and a cornerstone of the downtown area. Popular with locals and tourists, college students and families … everyone knows this town institution as "Carvers". Pictured here (on the left ) is Twilight Peak IPA… a beautiful American style India Pale Ale, citrusy, hop forward with floral notes. A craft beer lover’s cult classic. (To the right) Taster Flight beers that are always on the menu … starting with the light-bodied organic Lightner Creek Lager with balanced malt and clean hop bitterness … the light caramel malt Jack Rabbit Pale Ale with citrusy American hops … Raspberry Wheat Ale brewed with over a pound of raspberries for every gallon of beer. And finally, the rich and creamy Iron Horse Stout with roasted malt flavor and flaked oats. Your brew of choice can be filled in their two pint Cruiser Can to-go. Another reason to love Carvers is their restaurant menu designed by Chef Dave Cuntz who began his career working with Julia Child. He also recently won the insanely challenging Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. Chef Dave sources the freshest, quality local ingredients from their very own Carver Farm, located just north of town. Pairing Carver's handcrafted brews with New American Cuisine with Southwest touches is an experience not to be missed. (Website / Beer Menu / Food Menu)
“Inspired by ska music and culture, and the owners’ motto “It Takes Characters To Brew Beer With Character,” Ska Brewing offers loads of personality … with food from The Container because it’s constructed from metal shipping containers and a beer garden, Tasting Room, masterly crafted flagship and seasonal brews, and funky clever website design that delivers the Ska vibe.
This Taster Flight (pictured) offers your choice of five beers. Here we have the dark Steel Toe Stout that is best described by Ska … ‘It’s as though a cow stared into the face of God and as God told it the meaning of life we grabbed its udders and squeezed out a bucket.’ Did I mention this place has character? Next, the roasted toasted chocolate Buster Nut Brown ale with spice and earthy hops. Followed by the hugely popular Pinstripe Red Ale with hops balanced with caramel malts and fruity finish. Next, the Rudie Session IPA with fruity hops, pear and watermelon. And finally, the True Blonde Ale (also pictured to the right in her signature glass) with local honey, bready malts and touch of tangy wheat, best described by Ska as “a smooth and sexy brew, like golden waves of yeast crashing on a golden beach of golden sand with golden taps spewing golden beer that’s smooth as gold … soul mates.” Next to the blonde is the American style India Pale Ale Modus Hoperandi with a mixture of citrus, pine and light caramel. Foodie note … The Container’s menu is inspired by the geographical origins of ska music, Caribbean and Creole cuisines, with housemade sauces and breads made from 100% organic flour. This is a place to settle in, smile and have a good time. (Website / Beer Menu / Food Menu)
Located a block from the Durango Train Depot, just off the tracks. I first sought out Brew because word around town was buzzing about their beers and also… note to foodies … their Fried Chicken that’s marinated in beer and served with Beer & Cheese Mashed Potatoes. It was and remains in a word … sublime … along with other scrumptious brew-inspired items. Their bay window opens the entire front wall of the pub … sunlight streams into the dining area and bar … and it’s pretty exciting when the trains rumble past and you’ve got a front row seat. Not a rainbow brew offering, they concentrate on four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and session (to represent water.) All hand crafted in small batches, some aged in American oak whiskey barrels. They continually rotate their menu. Pictured to the left is a seasonal specialty ’99 Amber Lager’ named after their 99th batch of beer and described as ridiculously hopped. Trio to the right … the Tess Brown Ale with hints of nuts and caramel. Uma (front) a very hop forward session IPA, and (back) the spiced Olga, a farmhouse ale with rose hips, toasted coriander and Montmorency pie cherries. Described as ‘Amazing Hand Crafted Beer & Delicious Fresh Food Made From Scratch’ … Brew is a place to linger and savor. (Website / Beer Menu / Food Menu)
Positioned in a primo spot by the train bridge and Animas River Trail, Animas Brewing is Durango’s newest brewery that’s already turning out consistent favorites and flavorful seasonal brews. Here we have (on the left) the Hogs Back Black that’s surprisingly light for the dark color … smooth, with a hint of roasted character. Next, the orange-yellow Gold King Sour with grapefruit citrus flavor and sour finish. The Class VI IPA (on the right) is in tribute to being Durango’s 6th brewery, with six varieties of hops and nice malt body. Another favorite of locals (not shown) is the Riverside Kolsch … word around town has it that this German-Style with European Pilsner two-row wheat and Munich malt is perfectly balanced. Note to foodies … they have a fantastic menu of kicked-up traditional beer-pub food and pasties (hand pies.) Click here for a previous post featuring their sensational J.W. Burger. A family friendly place … after your indoor or outdoor patio dining, take a stroll along the Animas River Trail, across the bridge and enjoy the scenery. (Website / Beer Menu / Food Menu)
Steamworks is the largest restaurant in town … when Durangoans have family visiting, this is a go-to spot. Casual atmosphere with massive menu. Buckets of chalk for kiddos to decorate the peanut-shell scattered floors. This place is always packed … we have yet to go when there isn’t a line out the door and the bar isn’t filled with game day fans, college students, tourists and locals. There are usually twelve beers on the menu with mainstays like the Steam Engine lager with malt sweetness and hop spice … and the Prescribed Burn ale with roasted Habanero, Poblano, and Hatch Green Chiles. Colorado Kolsch is very popular … a light crisp derivative of the German with hint of fruitiness. Pictured on the right is the bright smooth One Wit Wonder Belgian White with coriander and orange peel. Look for the seasonal Spruce Goose starting this Thanksgiving, brewed with locally hand-picked pine needles and we’re promised it’ll have hints of Christmas tree. Foodie note: on any given day after 4:30 pm you can count on several tables celebrating with the Cajun Boil … a spicy mound of seafoods, sausages, potatoes and cob corn served family style … meaning they cover your table with paper and pour it right in the center. This is a place for celebrations, relaxing, meeting friends … something for everyone. (Website / Beer Menu / Food Menu)
At the time of this article they were smack in the middle of a major remodel … temporarily closed. So I’ve made a note to pop back by after the big reveal. Located on North Main Avenue near 32nd Street, Durango Brewing has been around for 25 years. Very excited to see how this longstanding brew pub and tap room is transformed. (Website)
Bonus! … Durango has two distilleries that are definitely worth mentioning. Durango Craft Spirits opened in January of 2015 and is known for being the town’s first legal grain-to-grass distillery since prohibition. Their unique five-grain Soiled Doves Vodka (in reference to the term used for Victorian age ladies of the night) is a mildly spicy, sweet, smooth vodka that is sometimes described as a subtle silver tequila. It is delicious and the inspiration for their cocktail menu, along with Durango’s spirited history with names like The Erring Sister (pictured) with fresh basil muddled with blueberry syrup, lemon and blueberry infused Soiled Doves on the rocks. Another local favorite is the Silver Mountain Mule with Soiled Doves, ginger beer and fresh lime juice. They are currently distilling a sweet caramel bourbon that will be ready in 2 -3 years. Can’t wait that long? Me neither … so look for their un-aged whiskey this Thanksgiving. The menu also offers seasoned peanuts to munch on, non-alcoholic drinks and hand-crafted sodas. Located on Main Avenue at 11th, they sit back from the street, so keep an eye out for this gem of a spot that tends to fill up right around 5:00 - quittin’ time. (Website / Cocktail Menu)
A short drive north through the valley and you’ll find this darling place where Winnie the Pooh would lose his ever lovin’ mind. Devoted to all things honeyed, with every imaginable honey jam, flavored honey butter, syrup, sauce, beeswax candle or honey nectar lotion. All very fine quality. The minute you walk in the door someone will say, “Let us know if you’d like to sample anything.” They’re also expert distillers with a brand new sparkling beehive-shaped still named “The Queen Bee.” One tasting area is set up for Honey Bourbon … it is luscious, velvety smoooooth and you cannot miss the notes of … yup, honey. New on the menu is the Hex Vodka named for honeycomb hexagons … subtly floral with vanilla and clean finish. The wine tasting area offers orange blossom honey mead, and pure honey wines. Their Sweet Honey Wine (pictured) is sweet, but not too sweet … lovely and light. Along with a fruity favorite dessert blend Raspberry Wine. If you’re a honey lover, it’ll take every effort to bee-hive yourself. (sooooo so sorry, couldn’t resist :- ) (Website / Online Store)
Six breweries and two distilleries … all producing expertly hand-crafted quality brews and spirits … with pride and the kind of camaraderie that creates our City of Brewery Love.
Please feel free to share your favorite mainstays and seasonal brews in the comments below.
(c) Copyright 2015, Amy Dodson / I’d Order That, All Rights Reserved. Photos, text and all content from this post are under copyright and not permissible for republishing, promotional purposes, social media cover photos, etc. Please direct queries to DATO or the writer at amy(at)idorderthat(dot)com. Thank you.