Chasing the Beer Scene in Colorado

Ska Brewing, Million Dollar Roads, and the South Park Valley Adventure.

By Matt Sandy


Not so long ago, beer drinkers and outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado were pretty much limited to “Banquet beer” and rear-entry ski boots when it came to imbibing and out-of-the-house hobbies. These days though, both scenes have exploded with a myriad of options for those bold enough to try something new. From unique takes on classic styles to Brett-enhanced offerings that surprise and challenge the palate, there is an adventurous brewing spirit alive and well in the Centennial State. Ambitious athletes have pioneered hybrid sports and standard alfresco activities have been reinvented in this outdoor oasis. So grab your GoPro and stainless steel growler and choose your own adventure.

Ska Brewing Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter // Ski Silverton

Silverton Mountain is about as far from “resort-skiing” as you can get. With one lift and mandatory guided skiing for most of the season, this is expert-only terrain at its finest. Silverton is blanketed with 400+ inches of snow every season and even when the white stuff hasn’t fallen in a few days, the knowledgeable guides can still take you to parts of the mountain that hold abundant, untracked, fresh powdery goodness. Bring your avalanche gear or rent from the mountain, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous, add a heli-drop to your off-piste excursion. A five-run day is the norm at Silverton and that will certainly leave you pining for the hot tub.

You will most likely want to stay in Silverton the night before your ski day. Try the Triangle Motel for an inexpensive stay with free wi-fi. After your ski day, head 50 miles south to Durango, which boasts one of the most vibrant craft communities in the state.

Boozy and warming, Ska Brewing’s Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter is as creamy as the turns you hopefully poached at Silverton Mountain. Hints of figs, Bing cherries, dates, chocolate, and coffee make for a surprisingly balanced brew that is as favorable on the nose as it is on the palate.  At Ska, chain wallets and bowling shirts are welcome. Take a tour of the 100% wind-powered brewery at 4:00pm, Monday through Saturday, and grab a bite at the on-site Container Restaurant. Look for the repurposed shipping container in the parking lot.

Ouray Brewing San Juan IPA // Ice Climbing & Driving the Million Dollar Highway, Ouray

Nestled in a picturesque valley in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado, Ouray was the inspiration for Ayn Rand’s idyllic “Galt’s Gulch” in Atlas Shrugged and certainly lives up to its reputation as the “Gem of the Rockies.” The town serves as a gateway to the Million Dollar Highway, and the photogenic drive out of Ouray overlooks the town and the Uncompahgre River Gorge, demanding a competent driver unfazed by the guardrail-less vertical drops. The town plays host to the Ouray Ice Festival every winter, which, unlike many town’s “ice festivals,” is a celebration of ice climbing as opposed to ice sculptures.

Featuring Ouray’s only rooftop dining, Ouray Brewing Company offers panoramic views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains and plenty of their flagship IPA. This dry-hopped American-Style India Pale Ale is brewed with four varieties of hops. It finishes dry with hints of grapefruit and is perfect for calming your nerves before or after conquering the Ouray Ice Park.

Trinity Elektrick Cukumbahh Saison // Hot Air Ballooning, South Park Valley

Located in the scenic South Park Valley—the town of Fairplay, aka South Park, is a mere 30 miles away—Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rides offers the highest rides in the country. Your high-altitude outing will afford spectacular views of many of Colorado’s 53 “fourteeners” (mountains measuring 14,000 feet or higher) including Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s tallest peak.

Known for its off-kilter Saisons and sense of humor, Trinity Brewing’s Elektrick Cukumbahh is citrusy, effervescent, and brewed with a healthy amount of English cucumber. Grains of Paradise produce a peppery finish and the Saison and Brett yeasts make this beer a perfectly bright and refreshing brew after a long day working the fields or soaring in a hot air balloon. Trinity’s taproom offers plenty of their own brews along with several guest taps and killer food. The flights are massive and there is usually a firkin on the bar pouring something special.

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