The late afternoon light was a golden, almost tangible presence, imbuing conversations with ease and almost instant nostalgia. The photographers’ magic hour illuminating the room, providing the lighting for an art film come to life.
Each individual becoming both star and extra, shifts in perspective determining a given role. The Wife, our friend Roberta, and I relaxing after the day’s journey to Durango. Locals and fellow travelers catching up on the plot points of each others existence. And the gracious hosts of BREW Pub and Kitchen overlooking it all, keeping the cast of the moment well fed and amply liquefied.
The evening was a prelude to Ska Brewing’s anniversary party, made all the more enticing with The English Beat headlining. But that was still a day away. The usually hard choice of where to get a beer and meal, in a town blessed with options, was made easier with the recent addition of another craft brewer; and as it turned out, exceptional food for this, or any other town.
Ordering a beer is akin to calling out a friend, each one being labelled a person’s first name. Erik greeted my palate familiarly, a single hopped IPA that quickly became a favorite acquaintance. We learned that our server, Lainie, was half of a husband and wife team owning and operating BREW. The mustachioed namesake of my beer soon presented himself in the form of Erik Maxson, Lainie’s husband.
Their story is one of a true craft beer romance, having met while both worked at Phantom Canyon Brewing. The Colorado Springs connection furthered by their brewhouse, obtained from Trinity Brewing. After moving to Durango, each had stints at Carver Brewing and Steamworks Brewing before making the leap to their own establishment.
While Erik brews, both, along with one of their employees concoct and prepare the outstanding cuisine. The small plates we had, delighted the senses in a mouthwatering ensemble. From the poutine, sinfully loaded with shredded pork, to an artfully selected array of meats and cheeses, to the fried pork belly, the tastes and textures surpassed all expectations. The fried pork belly in particular was devoured in hedonistic delight. A fudgey, chocolate cake with candied orange topped off the entire culinary experience.
All of the food is on par with some of the best gastropubs we’ve visited. The imagination and attention to detail rivals one of our favorite Denver eateries, Euclid Hall. The beers that accompanied the meal were of the same caliber, complimenting each bite.
The rest of the brews proved perfect companions to their friend Erik. Cecilia, an unfiltered pilsner, refreshed with her full bodied, yet crisp taste; Elise, a slightly hoppy pale ale with caramel notes; Donovan, light in color, but full in taste, challenging preconceptions of the typical double IPA; and Diana, an attractive golden Trappist.
Light breezes wafted in through the massive front window as the September evening wore on, refreshing the Friday crowd. But the night was coming on, and with it the fatigue of the road, precipitating the need to head back to our room.
We ran into Erik and Lainie the next night, serving up their beers to the Ska party revelers, and enjoying the moment just as much.
As I sat collecting notes from the trip after we had arrived home, I realized BREW had an added meaning, above and beyond the indelible conversations, beer, and food. It was my 100th brewery visit as an adult. What began in Germany (West at that time) when I was 17, had culminated in a milestone in Durango. The notch in the “beer belt” now encompasses 10 states and three countries.
With the necessities of my Beerporium business, I have far exceeded that benchmark since then, but that evening in Durango will remain in my memory for years to come. I was lucky that the experience equaled the importance of the event, making the remembrance all the more sweeter.
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