brew trek

2012 western slope brew trek – stage 3

Brew Trek Western Slope Stage 3We had entered a rip in time and space. A place where farmland extended as far as the eye could see on one side, while mesas and peaks sped past on the other. Ahead, the brake lights of the same car we had been following for miles flashed continually, taunting us in our inability to pass them or anyone else. The imposed speed limit of the endless work zone wore on eternally, warping any sense of time or miles, while a continual ping of loose asphalt struck the car playing a random rhythm in counterpoint to the playlist on our iPod. These were the endless moments assaulting us as we drove from Grand Junction to Montrose on the next stage of our brew tour, making the urge to have a beer excruciatingly strong.

Horsefly Brewery

We pulled into Horsefly Brewing shortly before the Lunch hour with a good number of patrons sitting both at the bar at in the shady patio just out the side door. While the place wasn’t packed by any means, there were still enough diners to make any cafe jealous, especially on a Tuesday.

Nicki of Horsefly BreweryWith corrugated metal and distressed wood, the brewery gives off a vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on the Gulf Coast. Beer paraphernalia from all types of breweries, macro and craft, fill the nooks, crannies, and shelves throughout the taproom, showing a love of beer that obviously goes back decades. So it was no surprise that our main server for the day, Nicki, was on the ball and friendly, keeping both the beers and information flowing.

Horsefly BreweryOur first beers went down almost too easily after the tedium of the drive down. My Six Shooter Pale Ale was very malty, but balanced with just enough hop bite to make it interesting. The Wife surprised me by ordering a Dry Irish Stout on such a hot day. Dry describes the roasty, malty brew perfectly, and with a slight hoppiness, the 5.3% ABV draught was something even I could appreciate.

With the tummies still full from our diner breakfast in Grand Junction, we put off having anything to eat for awhile and instead ordered up a flight. Of the four beers we had, Bug Eyed Blonde, Jazzy Razzy, Tabano Red, and Highland Scottish Ale, the Blonde and Jazzy had the biggest impressions on us for diverse reasons. The honey-sweet Blonde was light, yet full bodied, having a slight hoppiness that would’ve been dangerous if we had spent more time than we had there. The Wife was more enamored of the Jazzy Razzy than I, and she again surprised me that day by liking it since it was a fruit beer with a generous amount of raspberries rounding out the flavor.

Horsefly BreweryThe flight woke up our appetites by this time, although neither of us were looking for a full lunch. We had heard along the way raving recommendations of their wings, and according to the Wife, the buzz is well deserved. With nine different choices, Horsefly has options for any taste, that is if you like chicken, which I don’t. I made do with what I thought would be a light appetizer, the quesadillas, which turned out to be a behemoth of four tortillas loaded with cheese, meat, salsa, and peppers.

Phil Freismuth, co-owner of Horsefly, introduced himself in the midst of the feeding and tasting frenzy. Of course we expressed our appreciation of both the food and drink, as well as the attentive service. Overall, Horsefly is the epitome of a neighborhood brewery, a place where locals and travelers alike can sit and enjoy a few pints and satisfy the appetite. They’ll have some company soon from another local brewery in 2 Rogues, but speaking from experience, I’m sure that it will be a case of cooperation rather than competition.

The beers were near empty and the road was calling, we made our farewells and headed off to Ridgway, a short 30-40 minute drive.

The farther south we drove, the more the distant peaks began to encroach the road, encircling us by the time we reached the town. The “Gateway to the San Juans,” Ridgway is a quaint little mountain town. Its Old West atmosphere recognized as a perfect location for movies like How the West was Won and True Grit. And its Hollywood connection goes further with homes of Ralph Lauren and the late Dennis Weaver in the area.

There are a few options for accommodations in the town, in different price ranges. Our choice was the Ridgway Lodge and Suites, located just across the highway from the town proper. Even though it is just across the highway, it’s less than a couple of minutes to the center of town.

The rooms were clean and spacious, and the rates reasonable; a step up from many of the similar motels strewn all across the High Country. And since we would only be spending one night, it perfectly met our needs.

Colorado Boy Brewery

Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery sits on the unpaved streets of the center of town, right next to the local community theater, and across from Kate’s Place, one of the best rated cafes in the region. The taproom was full, and patrons had spilled over to tables just outside when pulled up on a perfect Colorado late afternoon.

Kip of Colorado Boy BreweryThe beer gods had conspired in our favor once more, reserving the last two stools at the bar for us. Kip, our bartender for the night, set our Colorado Boy IPA and Colorado Boy Blonde before us amazingly quick. The IPA, very true to the traditional English style, has a strong malt backbone, but is remarkably dry. Almost like a cream ale, the Blonde is light with slight yeasty tones, a pleasing refresher.

As we sat sipping our initial pints, the decor enveloped us in its stained woodwork, brass taps, and tasteful wallpaper. It felt as if we had gone back in time to when the West was young, as if we were in a taproom opened by a newly arrived English emigre. And as the shadows lengthened and the sun rays streamed horizontal, the feeling increased in the golden light.

Colorado Boy BreweryWe had been looking forward to having a meal at CB, but both our breakfast and previous snacks conspired against that. It was a shame too, the aromas and sights of pizzas and salads, while enticing, couldn’t compete with our satiation. Beer and conversations stood instead for dinner, both satisfying and interesting. Through both pints and tasters, we sampled everything on tap, including the GABF Silver and Bronze winning Irish Red. We both enjoyed the Scottish Ale’s roasty and malty flavor, while the Wife wouldn’t even touch the Cask Conditioned IPA that I loved with its dry hopped complex tones.

While comparing notes with another of our barmates, Ron from Sedona, we also chatted up Kip. In addition to serving at Colorado Boy, he also tends bar at Ourayle House Brewery. He recently had a lead for a job at Ouray Brewery, which would make him the first person to bartend at all three Ouray County breweries.

Colorado Boy Brewery

One of the motivating factors that compelled us to this tour, was meeting Tom Hennessy at GABF last year. The owner and brewer for Colorado Boy is an amiable and engaging guy, a tireless ambassador for craft brewing; unfortunately he wasn’t around the night we stopped in, although his presence was felt many times throughout our tour, both before and after our visit. In addition to running CB, Tom offers an immersive brewing course that has influenced a number of Colorado brewers, including the newly opened Avalanche Brewing which we visited a few days later in Silverton. From our conversation with Kip, and others later on in our journey, we learned that Tom was the original owner and founder of Palisade Brewing, and that he had owned Il Vicino in Salida that eventually became Amica’s. The man has gotten around, and has made a sizable contribution to Colorado craft brewing.

Kate's Place in Ridgway

The next morning, we headed across the street for breakfast at Kate’s Place; it had come highly recommended the night before, and as we found out justifiably so. With fresh ingredients, perfect service, and a laid back atmosphere, it’s no surprise that Kate’s has earned the highest ratings on the Western Slope from TripAdvisor. Like the breakfast the previous day, it more than fortified us for the long day ahead. A day that would see three towns and four breweries.

Next up: Ouray, Silverton, and Durango. And Ouray, Silverton, Ska, and Steamworks breweries.

2012 Western Slope Brew Trek

Stage 1a Stage 1b Stage 2 Stage 3

Crazy Mountain
& Gore Range

Carbondale Beerworks

Palisade
& Kannah Creek

Horsefly
& Colorado Boy

Stage 4 Stage 5 Stage 6 Stage 7

Ouray, Silverton,
Ska, & Steamworks

Avalanche
& Durango Brewing

Pagosa Brewing
& Moonlight Pizza

Amica’s
& BierWerks

This entry was published on August 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm. It’s filed under Brew Pub and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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