Craft beer is a staple, nay an essential, of life in Colorado and the Uncompahgre Valley. And while it wasn’t always that way, we now have a veritable beer trail running the length and breadth of the valley
Believe it or not, there was a time when this part of Colorado had very little in the way of ‘fancy beer.’ There were two readily available beers at local juke joints hailing from our great state: the good ole’ boy, Coors, and Fat Tire, the O.G. craft brew from New Belgium. Then like a blown keg shooting beer all over bar goers on a greenhorn’s first keg swap, microbrews and craft beer exploded on the world and they were everywhere, including the Uncompahgre valley. Today we have almost a dozen breweries in the valley.
Ouray, the “Switzerland of America,”is home to four breweries, which is impressive for a town with a year-round population of just over 1,000. As you pull into town you’ll first see The Ourayle House, or as it’s known locally Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing. It’s an unremarkable hole-in-the-wall hang with a small selection of excellent beer on tap and an owner that’s not afraid to give it to you straight. This joint delivers exactly what you came for, cold beer in a big or small glass or as the proprietor explains his (small glass) and hers (big glass). It’s a must when visiting Ouray.
Next, The Ouray Brewery with its unmatched rooftop where you can sip one of their slightly nutty yet bold Box Canyon Brown or their crisp San Juan IPA, whilst being dwarfed by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains.
Up the road a hop (get it?), skip and a slight stumble you have the Colorado Boy Southwest. It’s the third installment in the Colorado Boy franchise with a huge patio, 12 beers on tap, pizza, and authentic Mexican cuisine. The beer here is brewed in Ridgway at the Colorado Boy there (see below).
Finally, there is Red Mountain Brewery with its aspirations to keep it local. They tend to rotate their beer based on seasonality and when paired with their well-crafted gastropub food they will not disappoint.
Moving down the valley to Ridgway, the charming community’s one and only pub is the flagship of the Colorado Boy empire. Established in 2008, locals affectionately call it “The Boy.” Here you will see people scattered about the sidewalk enjoying the hoppy goodness of the local favorites, the Pale Ale, the Irish Red and a rotating cask beer, all of which are great with one of the artisanal pizzas.
Down in Montrose there are four providers of finely crafted brewskis. First, we have Colorado Boy Montrose, the second brewery owned and operated by the original founding father of the brewing school (yeah, Colorado Boy offers a brewing class). With their different renditions and flavors than the previously mentioned “Boy” and a theatrical pizza kitchen in the dining room, you can’t go wrong with an evening at the “Mo-boy.”
Then there’s Horsefly Brewing, a bustling beer house and restaurant with ample outdoor seating, live music and the slogan, “no crap on tap.” Hop enthusiasts will want to try the Peacemaker double IPA while you indulge in their wing of the month.
Just off West Main Street there is Two Rascals, a cozy local hang with lots of bar stools and plenty of conversation to pair with their tasty ale selection. The Kolsch and Cream Ale are particularly good and a few of them loosen you up for a game of darts.
Finally, we have the newest installment of Montrose breweries, San Juan Brews. With garage door-style windows opening onto Main Street, this is a great place to sit and people watch while drinking one of their immaculately crafted beers. The Saison and Nitro Porter are particularly good.
Ten miles north in Olathe you’ll find Mad Russian Brewing Company. With more than a dozen campsites on the property, you can indulge in one of their half a dozen beers, including the delicious Bobcat Pilsner or Devil’s Slide Raspberry, while pitching your tent or playing a game of the refreshingly low-tech cornhole. There is regular live music and occasional food available. And, after you’ve had a few and need a nap, you can simply crawl into your tent for a siesta. Brilliant!
At last, we reach the end of our hoppy malty journey in the city of murals, Delta, home to the family-owned and operated Stoik Beer Company. There you can expect a host of fun flavors like Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Stout and their Peach Blonde.
So, no matter your taste in beer, be it strong, dark and bitter or light, crisp and crushable, our little slice of paradise has plenty of options for all. Prost!