brew trek
Three Barrel Brewing

three barrel brewing company – small town hospitality

They say timing is everything; that perfect parking spot right in front of where you want to be, an unknown sale on an item you’ve been coveting for months, a tapping of a rare and hard to get beer just when you happen to stop in at your favorite watering hole, all can make your day if the stars align and you’re in the right place at the right time. Our multiple trys at visiting Three Barrel Brewing Company have illustrated that idiom perfectly.

Three Barrel BrewingLocated in the town of Del Norte, Colorado, the brewery has sat in the back of a insurance office since it was founded in 2005; until last year that is. We had stopped by on a southwestern Colorado road trip a few years ago, only to be greeted by a dark storefront. A thirsty, longing glance through the windows revealed shadows of desks and maybe something larger in the back, but no one there to greet us. The town itself almost seemed deserted on that cold, overcast Autumn day back in 2009. With only about 10 blocks lining the highway, and a population under 2,000, it’s close to being a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of town.

In the years that followed, there was never enough time to try and stop by again when we’d travel through the region, and to be honest, that dark storefront the first time deterred us. There were other breweries to stop in at, ones where we’d knew they’d be open, with doors wide open and a golden light beckoning us in. But Three Barrel stayed in our minds, a ghostly call as we’d slow for the in town speed limit, on our way to somewhere else.

Then, late last year, the planets moved into conjunction, the doors were thrown open, the pizza baked, and the beer flowed.

After years of procrastination, we had finally committed to attending one of Ska Brewing’s much lauded anniversary parties, a can’t miss bash that draws craft beer revelers from all of the four corners states. The plan was, like it usually is when having to drive to the region, to take a three day weekend; a leisurely drive down Friday, stopping in for a beer somewhere along the way, and then a near non-stop slog to get back on Sunday. Right before we left, I ran across an article highlighting Three Barrel’s new taproom, complete with pizza oven. The good juju spoke forth from the page, the beer gods were smiling, the itinerary complete.

Three Barrel Brewing

When we pulled up on that warm, early September morning, a completely different tableau unfolded before our eyes. Where once was an unmistakable feeling of living a real life episode of the Twilight Zone, complete with tumbleweeds rolling down an empty street, now the sun shone, people walked the sidewalks, and music came from an open doorway.

Jamie & Sam of Three Barrel BrewingWe had traveled straight through from Denver, not once stopping for the Wife’s notoriously small bladder. Even so, I had barely pulled the parking brake before she had leapt out, making a beeline for the restrooms. With the public humiliation crisis averted, the warm smile from Jaime, our server for the day, welcomed us.

Jaime’s cheerful disposition made the day that much more laid back as we sampled the beers, and devoured our strombolis. My initial Hop Trash IPA went well with my Meat Roll stromboli, its luscious hop bouquet balancing out the spicy wood-fired doughy goodness of a meat lovers dream. The Wife made a good choice in her liquid accompaniment also, her Pemba Sherpa Saison had a creaminess that coated the palate nicely, its coriander complimenting the meal.

As we ate, the clientele in the taproom came and went, quite a few dropping by for to-go orders. Their waits were relatively short thanks to the efficient efforts of Sam the cook, manning the oven that day. Any extended delays were made that much more bearable by a quick pint, casually sipped in the inviting taproom. Earthtone washed walls, raw wood paneling, and stone accents envelop the space, lulling the unsuspecting into whiling away the day with sips and tastes.

Three Barrel Brewing

And what you sip satisfies and entices. Every beer we sampled in our after lunch flight had its merits, and then some.The lightly bodied Bad Phil Pale Ale contains just enough hop punch to make interesting, without leaving you wondering where the taste was as many pales do. The Trashy Blonde Ale continued with the taste fiesta, malty and sweet, the Wife really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how much I liked the Burnt Toast Brown Ale, a style I’m usually on the fence about, it’s earthy hoppiness made it much more than your father’s brown. The flight was rounded out with the Black Copter Stout, smooth and lush with less toastiness than many stouts, the rest of its malt load made it complex nonetheless.

Three Barrel BrewingContinuing a trend that’s become the rule, rather than the exception, Jaime related that she’s been helping out in the brewhouse for the past two and a half years, joining a growing sisterhood of female brewers. It won’t be long before the boy’s club of craft brewing becomes an equal mix of male and female; many of the breweries we’ve visited in recent times have had a woman somehow engaged in the brewhouse, mixing it up with the guys.

The six barrel system she helps with is beautifully complimented by lustrous copper fermenters that fill the relatively small brewhouse. But the space is used efficiently since they also bottle in the room for a growing distribution.

The morning slowly changed over to the early afternoon as we sipped and talked. The shadows changing angles whenever we glanced out the storefront, eventually lengthening to the point where we couldn’t avoid the need to move on. With still two hours to get to Durango, we said our goodbyes and hit the road.

We now know, without a doubt, that we can stop in Del Norte for fresh and tasty craft beer whenever we’re passing through. We also know that our hunger will be satisfied, and that we’ll feel welcome when we pass through Three Barrel’s doors, a golden light beckoning us in.

This entry was published on July 24, 2013 at 5:35 pm. It’s filed under Brewery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “three barrel brewing company – small town hospitality

  1. Awesome. I love how you not only get to know the location, but also take the time to get the know the people as well. Makes me want to hop in the truck right now, but I think I’d need a little more than a 3-day weekend. Cheers!

    • Thanks Ed! I know what you mean, we’ve been itchin to get back out ourselves. We’re going to Ska’s annie party again this year (English Beat will be playing!), but that’s not until September.

  2. rickla on said:

    The beers sound great, but forgive me for getting hung up on mundane details: where did you fly from and to, and how did you avoid being arrested for drunk driving?

    • I believe you didn’t quite read the entire post. It was a road trip, we drove from Denver to Durango, with a stopover in Del Norte.

      But it’s a good question about drunk driving. We always know our limits; we limit the number of beers or the portion size depending upon how long we intend to stay at a brewery. We spent around three to three and a half hours in Del Norte, ate a large meal there which is always important, and kept the majority of beers to taster or ‘shorty’ size.

      Hope that answers your questions, cheers!

      • rickla on said:

        Thanks for the quick answer. I did read the post, and you mentioned a “flight” in there somewhere!

        I guess things are a bit different in the States as regards drunk driving. Although in Japan there is officially a limit up to which you’re safe, in practice even a sip or two of beer is frowned upon very heavily, and you often hear about people losing their jobs when commuting to work the next morning having failed to totally eliminate the alcohol from their bloodstream. Hence our rather paranoid attitude.

        A somewhat related matter is the strength of many American craft brews. I’m accustomed to thinking of anything over 6% alcohol as strong, and on the couple of occasions when I’ve visited the States I certainly found many of the brews extremely heady (though I guess the same would be true of I went to Belgium). I guess it’s just a matter of getting used to them.

        • I see your confusion on a couple of points, especially if you’re an international reader.

          ‘Flight’ refers to a collection of beer tasters, usually three or more. Those tasters are generally anywhere from 3 – 6 oz.s each, allowing you to get a taste of what a brewery has to offer without having to drink a full pint. It would definitely be criminal to get behind the wheel of a car if you had drank a full pint of every beer described in this post.

          Thanks for reading!

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