When one thinks of Pagosa Springs, one thinks of a ski resort-based mountain town and not necessarily good beers. In the two trips that I’ve made to this wonderful place for a few days of soaking in the natural hot springs, I’ve had the pleasure of imbibing in some excellent micro brews as well. Pagosa Brewing Co. has been around for seven years now and is home to several award-winning ales, such as Poor Richards and Kayaker Cream ale.
We started with a flight and worked our way through a galaxy of different flavors and offerings. Of particular note from our tasting was the general consistency of good balance and flavor profiles from all of the different beers. In a word, we were impressed with how true each beer was to its particular genre and profile. Some of our favorites from the group included Kayaker Cream, which I liked for how sessionable and refreshing it was, while Chile Verde Cerveza was just as good as I had remembered from our previous trip. It is a truly great green chile beer with just enough roasted green aroma and spice for my palate without some of the shortcomings of other attempts at similar chile beers. This one was probably my favorite because of the relative rarity of actually decent chile beers that hold their own in terms of balance and good flavor.
Poor Richards is something different and quite special. It has layers of flavor from a resurrected recipe including corn and molasses, which give it a subtle sweetness and hearty finish not often found in a brown/amber hybrid. Our favorite from the previous trip, Soaker’s Stout, did not disappoint. It is a good, lighter stout with an excellent, smooth finish. I did want a little more bite and a stronger mouthfeel, but overall was quite happy with the offering. Pagosa Brewing has a nice outdoor space in addition to the relatively small and cozy bar and eating area. I would imagine it would be very pleasant on a summer or autumn eve under the Ponderosas and a plethora of stars.
The newcomer to the Springs is Riff Raff Brewing, which has been around for about half a year. Located in “downtown” Pagosa across from the springs resort, Riff Raff inhabits a wonderful building (built circa 1896) that is still full of charm. We started with a sampler of everything on the menu (even though I’d already made my choice for a pint; any imperial stout with a name like ‘Weapon of Self Destruction’ is surely going to get my attention!) and were in for a real treat.
Against all odds we had found a second really good chile beer in El Duende, a real gem in the nuanced flavors of Crazy Caribou, and two really great stouts. Da Oats Oatmeal stout is a flavor explosion of roasted malts and oatmeal, with a great bite and a delightful coffee aftertaste. It all adds up to an outstanding expression of what I find best in an oatmeal stout. Weapon of Self Destruction most certainly lived up to the name — a perfect harmony of sweet and dark bourbon notes with a devilishly derived recipe of quite a number of different malts, all the while lulling one into finishing the monster off without noticing the 9.6-percent ABV.
It is somewhat interesting to me that Riff Raff carries the slogan of “hoppiness” and yet I was rather more impressed with their selection of porters and stouts, chile beer, and old world ales than their IPA and hoppy red ales. That being said, I was extremely impressed with what Riff Raff has been able to accomplish in their beers in just a matter of months and I very much look forward to trying them again next time I need a good soak in the incomparable springs. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip up to Pagosa for the views, the mountains, the springs, and the beer. You will not be disappointed.
— Franz Solo