The laid-back, play-hard towns of southern Colorado offer up some of the best craft brew in a state that leads the nation in beer savvy-ness with over 200 breweries and growing. What better way to cap off a big day outdoors than with a cold one? None, we say, but it’s hard to pick the best breweries in a state so awash in sudsy riches. So here’s a quick guide to our favorite, lesser known watering holes in southern Colorado. So start planning that SoCo road trip and be sure to drink responsibly.
Earn It: Rock Climb in Garden
of the Gods
There are tons of route options at this playground, but our faves include the two-pitch, 5.7 North Ridge up the iconic Montezuma’s Tower, an intimidating fin of rock with a healthy dose of exposure and the two-pitch, 5.7 New Era route up the east face of Kindergarten Rock.
Imbibe: Bristol Brewing Company
Locals flock to this brewery for its award-winning, locally-made draughts and the fun, open atmosphere. Differentiated by the fact it’s located in Ivywild, a historic elementary school that also houses a bakery, coffee shop and restaurants, Bristol is much more than a bar; it’s a gathering place with a true and devoted community. Tons of space, a killer outdoor patio complete with games and owners who continually demonstrate their generosity, social responsibility and dedication by giving back to the Springs in too many ways to mention, make this far more than a brewery. But if you are here to try the wares, be sure to try the best-seller, a malty Scottish Ale called Laughing Lab and grab at least one item from the menu of delicious and largely, locally sourced pub grub.
Earn It: Road Ride Poncha Pass
Park at Elevation Beer Company, ride to Hwy 285, head south and huff and puff until you reach the top of the pass at 9,010 feet (seven miles from Poncha Springs). Head back or cruise all the way to Villa Grove, grab supplies at the store and climb back over the pass to Salida (about 54 miles roundtrip).
Imbibe: Elevation Beer Company
This cozy, casual, relaxed tap room with views of the mountains and friendly service, cranks out some of the best beer in the state. Don’t miss the crisp and very drinkable 8-Second Kolsch, the delicious and robust Little Mo’ Porter or the Apis IV, a cool and tasty Quadrupel. And, be sure to grab whatever unique, well-balanced, limited, barrel-aged releases that are on tap in the Double Black Diamond Series. Every beer here is outstanding so it’s understandable if you can’t choose just one (this is the purpose of the sampler platter). Get an inside look with a brewery tour (by appointment or Sat 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.), grab a bite from the food truck often parked outside or relax on the huge outdoor patio and soak in the sun.
Earn It: Scale Mt. Sneffels
This imposing 14,150-foot peak dominates the skyline from many spots near Ridgway and Ouray. Starting at 10,700 feet in the stunning Yankee Boy Basin, follow the direct, Class II+, 7-mile roundtrip route up Sneffels’ south slopes to reach its pinnacle.
Imbibe: Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery
This small, cozy, hip pub housed in a historic brick building is the ideal spot to sip a delicious pint, savor a slice of artisan pizza and watch beer brew before your eyes. You can feel good about doing it, too, since these folks are dedicated to making their operation minimum impact: Wind creates 100 percent of the electricity, solar collectors on the roof provide hot water for brewing and all used yeast and grain feed local cattle. Because the emphasis is on local, small batch brews, you’ll only have 5 or 6 taps to choose from, but they’re all outstanding and quite varied, including blondes, pales, IPAs, stouts and, of course, special releases depending on the season. Also, visit Colorado Boy Pizzeria on Main Street in Montrose.
EARN IT: BIke the Ski Resort
Once the snow melts, spend the day bombing down steep, techy trails in the Mountain Village Bike Park, the only free (!) lift-serviced downhill bike park in the world.
Imbibe: Telluride Brewing Company
This no-frills microbrewery located just outside of town rocks. Enjoy a craft specialty here and you’ll agree that what TBC lacks in space, it makes up for in taste. The brewers seem to love creating bold IPAs, so give the Tempter, the Freaky Fish Belgian (8.5 percent) and the whiskey-barrel-aged Fishwater Project (11 percent!) a whirl. We also love the Wet Hopped American Pale Ale, an exceptional summer seasonal. Take home your favorite in a Crowler—a 32 oz aluminum can (no glass!) which is sealed so it stays fresh for weeks—though we doubt it will last that long.