Silverton Magazine - Silverton, Colorado

Best Breweries and Brew Pubs in Western Colorado

Sandy Hennessy, Colorado Boy, RidgwayCOLORADO LOVES BEER! We have more breweries per capita than any other state in the US. And, with over 100 microbreweries, today, "Colorado is among the nation’s top beer producers and claims one of the largest concentrations of craft breweries in America." (Official story.) The Great American Beer Festival, the largest of its kind in the US is held in Denver every year. Popular local festivals include the annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival (September), Grillin’, Chillin’, and Thrillin’ Music and Brewfest (Ouray, August), 2nd Annual Band and Brew Blowout (Pagosa, September), and Oktoberfest beer extravaganzas in virtually every town in Southwest Colorado. (Colorado Beer Festivals.)

Since the 1800s, beer has been brewed, drunk, and celebrated in Colorado. When alcohol was outlawed by the Volsted Act people still drank. They just made their own. You might say Prohibition gave birth to microbrewing. During those dark days only those that produced “sacramental wine” were allowed to manufacture, distribute and sell spirits. It was either home brew or no brew. Not surprisingly. most breweries went belly up. The few that did manage to survive consolidated, eventually—once the US went wet again—forming large commercial operations that turned out a standardized, mild-tasting lager, “boring” beer to many.

For better taste and variety, many turned to home brewing, sometimes on a fairly large scale, drawing inspiration from Britain, Germany, and Belgium, all long known for their brewing capabilities. “Hand-crafted” beers, small breweries, and brewpubs soon proliferated. By July of 2009, according to the Association of Brewers, there were a total 1482 craft breweries in the U.S.

Colorado Boy fermentersTo qualify as a microbrew, the beer must be brewed in a small commercial brewery that produces no more than 15,000 barrels per year. (Wikipedia) If brewed and distributed on a regional basis, microbrews can also be known as craft beers. The tradition here in southwest Colorado is long-standing, as beer was the beverage of choice for many miners. During the boom days, pre-prohibition, there were literally hundreds of small breweries in the area. During prohibition, some continued to operate in secret. Because travel was difficult and towns fairly far apart, there was usually ample time to warn the brewers and bar keeps of an impending raid, so that when the law did arrive, all they saw being served across the bar was sarsaparilla and ice cream sodas.

Here in our corner of the state, perhaps the best known small breweries are in Durango. The oldest is Durango Brewing CODurango Brewing Company, brewing since 1990, but dating to 1886 when Durango Beer and Ice Company became Durango Brewing Company. They brew three ales, a dark lager and a wheat beer, and several seasonal beers. All have won numerous awards. Besides serving their beer in The Tap Room, Durango Brewing also distributes throughout Colorado.

Carver Brewing COCarver Brewing Company opened 1988 as a restaurant and brewery. An outdoor Beer Garden was added in 1994, and the brewery expanded into their former bakery area in 2007. Carver presently produces 1,000 barrels a year, brewing eight different beers (four ales, a lager, a stout,an IPA and The Razzmosa (rasberry wheat ale with a splash of Chambord).

Steamworks BrewingSteamworks Brewing Company poured it first brew in September 1996, brewing and serving beer in an old automotive building (circa 1920) transformed into a state-of-the-art brewery and welcoming pub environment. In addition to brewing eight award-winning beers (27 awards to date), Steamworks is also deeply involved in the community, and in 2005, was named Durango’s Business of the Year by the Durango Chamber of Commerce.

Ska BrewingSka Brewing got its start because the owners weren’t old enough to drink, and took it’s name from their favorite kind of (thinking) music: Ska. “We started making beer in a kitchen because we were too young to buy it and we loved it. That’s what craft beer is, love,” say co-owners Bill Graham, Dave Thibodeau, and Matt Vincent. The boys went commercial in the mid 1990s, and today they produce and distribute six award-winning beers.

Silverton Brewing CoSilverton’s breweries are even older than Durango’s. The oldest, Silverton Brewery, dates to 1883 (related story) and (following a long hiatus) is operating again today (story - Silverton Brewery today). The brewery, open all year, brews and cans right on the premises in Silverton, with three award-winning (14 medals so far) beers on tap.

Ouray BrewingAt the north end of the Million Dollar Highway, Ouray Brewery (6th & Main), open this August, is the newest pub on the circuit and sure to be a favorite. A three-story building with a Beer Garden on top, “we have views from every seat in the house!” promises owner, Erin Eddy. Ouray Brewing takes place on the second floor, so you can watch as they make up the eight beers on tap (ales, stout, IPA, lager, and lighter summer brews). The brewery opens August 2010.

Colorado BoyNext stop is Ridgway, and The Colorado Boy, which like Ouray Brewery, uses a seven-barrel system. Trying to “stay green” with the entire process (using wind and solar), they generally have five or six ales on tap (ales, stout, IPA, lager, and lighter summer brews). Co-ower Tom Hennessy enjoys teaching others about the brewing process. (Click here for video.)

The business of beer is booming, even more so than in the mining days. It’s the perfect beverage for those with a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Nothing beats a beer after skiing, hiking, mountain biking... or just sitting around talking about what a great day you had in the paradise we call southwest Colorado.

Colorado Brewpubs and Microbreweries (list)
Colorado's Craft Breweries and Beer
The Top 3 Microbrews in Colorado

Guide to Beer Types & Classification : About Microbreweries & Beer Classification
An American Revolution - How Microbreweries Promote Choice - history of brewing in America
Beer Renaissance: Micro breweries the way forward? - how brewing beer and beer pubs cope with worldwide recession.
The rise of the beer brewing industry. More small breweries today than before WWII.
How To Distinguish Different Types Of Beer

Best Beer Commercial Ever!
Another Great Beer Commercial (from Denmark)

The Silverton Magazine. Copyright 2000-2012
Published by San Juan Publishing Group, Inc., Colorado
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any means whatsoever without written authorization from SJPG. 
(Plagerizers will be hung from the yardarm and fed to the mountain sharks!)

Queries for re-print rights, email
Copyright San Juan Publishing Group, Inc. Web design by Kathryn R Burke