Beercation Destination: Durango truly is The City of Brewerly Love

Posted: September 12, 2014 by Luke in Beercation Destinations, Out-of-Town Brews, Uncategorized
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Durango Pic 15

The beautiful Colorado mountain town of Durango is an excellent “beercation” destination.

OK, New Mexico, I know many of you have made the trip up to Durango before. I know because I saw a lot of you there recently for the San Juan Brewfest. But for those of you who’ve never been, or haven’t been since you were a kid, let’s talk about Durango as a serious “beercation” destination. Sure, it’s great for the snow and the tons of excellent outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, and zip-lining (all-beer friendly, am I right?), but read about that stuff in Outside Magazine if you want—we’re here for the beer, and as far as beer goes, Durango, “The City of Brewerly Love,” does not disappoint.

In order to have a successful beercation, several things are needed. Each beercationer will do his or her own thing, but we generally end up with a similar story at the end. Necessary elements, in my opinion, are 1) a good brew scene, 2) easy and safe access to said brew scene, 3) modes of recovery, and 4) a good beer haul, because you’ll want to bring some of those hard-to-get beers back home with you. For all of those to happen, your beer-vay-cay destination needs a reasonable amount of breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, and an overall enthusiastic bend in beer’s direction. For ease of access, it needs decent mass-transit — trolleys, cabs, horse and buggy, whatever — or at least it should be within easy walking distance between all beer establishments and hotels. We beercationers are all about tasting responsibly, right? Right. And finally, your beercation destination has to be packed with locally stacked liquor stores. Durango had all of those in spades.

Durango 3

Public transport! In a beer town? How novel.

So, following the rules of beercationing set down by our forefathers, and some common sense, we planned everything in advance — a city known for its craft-beer passion, a centralized hotel, easy transportation routes, recuperation restaurants, and a list of beer bars, breweries, and liquor stores long enough to quench everyone’s thirsts.

Base Camp

For a successful hop-holiday, the first thing needed is a good base camp, somewhere near the beer scene/events, close enough to walk to or grab a cheap cab ride home from. Something easily named so you don’t forget it when the cabby’s asking, “Where to, buddy?” Seriously, try remembering which Motel 6 by the highway after several pints. For that, we chose the Durango Downtown Inn. It’s not a fancy hotel by any means, as fellow Bullpen member Amy O pointed out to me, but it’s comfortable and clean. And what more do you need for a beer trip, really? But located between 8th and 9th Streets and only two short blocks from Main Street (Brew Central), it’s an ideal place to stumble back to after a long night, or day of responsibly drinking copious amounts of good craft brews. I highly recommend the hotel, and as Amy O also informed me, it really is right next to a liquor store for a beer haul, but I’ll get to that in a bit.


Durango 1

In addition to multiple breweries, a good beer bar is a must-see.

As for the nightlife scene, there are plenty of breweries, taprooms, saloons, cantinas, pubs, pre-prohibition-era-style cocktail bars, wine bars, spiritoriums, dives … eeally, it’s pretty ridiculous how much variety there is for such a small town. There’s a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’ for everyone’s tastes and bends even if it isn’t beer. For us, however, we would have been remiss if we passed on the royal beer treatment of Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange that Friday night.

“Falc’s,” I tried calling it a couple times to locals, only to be received by faces scrunched up in confusion, followed by, “Oh, Falconburgh’s! Yeah, love that place!” Take note Brew Dogs. No need to sound Greek when in Rome. Falconburgh’s was a great place. Sure it was “college-y,” but it’s in a college town. It felt very “Falling Rock Tap House,” if you’ve ever been to Denver. But with 38 rotating beers on tap, it’s easy to remind yourself that you’re here for the beer!

Altbiers and porters and ryes, oh my! They poured a wide variety of styles from each end of the spectrum and everything in between. If you visit, don’t forget to sign up for a beer card if you plan on drinking there often. And you should! After drinking 100 different brews, you get your name and design on one of the bricks holding up the establishment. Talk about supporting local! Falconburgh’s is a worthy descent into brew-madness and well worth the climb back out. After some interesting and informative barhopping, we finally ended up back at base camp having closed out the Derailed Pour House with one of their house pours. Exhausted, it was definitely time for bed; we had a brewfest to attend the next day.

So ... many ... tap ... handles ...

So … many … tap … handles …

That weekend, we made the special brewcation up to Durango for their annual San Juan Brew Fest, a festival with over 50 breweries, four bands, and one good cause. If you haven’t done it already, read all about the experience here (San Juan Brewfest). But there are other events that are coming up for you to plan into your very own cerveztination. Why not visit for Durango’s Oktoberfest, which is the weekend of Sept. 27-28 in Buckley Park? Bring your palates and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Hangover Breakfast

The next morning after a brewfest, very few thoughts enter the hurting brain besides, Water. I need water. Where are my sunglasses? Tylenol. Why is everyone talking so loudly? A single image of a giant greasy meal fit for an army of one pops into view. You see this carb-monster whenever you close your eyes, and it’s all you can think about. Fooooooood …

Durango Pic 12

Sustenance is a must while on beercation.

On local recommendation, we dragged ourselves, zombie-style, to the Durango Diner, famous for their green chile, spelled c-h-i-l-i there. Amateurs! Ha! Ow. My head. They had a rather large menu filled with breakfast and lunch items, pretty standard diner fair but huge piping hot portions, one even named “The Cure” with everything but the kitchen sink in it. Oh, there was the “Kitchen Sink Omelet,” too. We went with a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito. Now, my New Mexico amigos, I strongly suggest NOT ordering the red chile or Christmas. Their green chili is not our green chile, but it is still Hatch, and the recipe for the chile sauce is pretty tasty and with a familiar NM kick. But again, stay away from the red unless you want your burrito to taste like a chile cheese coney from Sonic, which is great as a chile dog. But we’re New Mexicans; we have a right to be snobbish about our chile. I won’t apologize for that. Interesting thing about Colorado is that they get the chile right in their beers. Try Pagosa Brewing Co.’s Chili Verde Cerveza and let me know what you think. Anyway, hangover cured! We were ready for our last bit of business, that is, the business of the beer haul.

The Beer Haul

As far as a good beer haul goes, you want to pair variety with friendly customer service. Durango has plenty of good options for liquor stores, but we chose Liquor World, as it was next door. We didn’t have time to drive around checking them all out, and so we reserved the others for a return visit, because there will be many. Oh, yes! There will be many. I want one of those Falconburgh bricks, all yellow, with a big red Zia Sun on it. Represent!

Durango 6

Don’t forget your friends at home before you leave.

Meanwhile, back at Liquor World, it seemed pretty run of the mill to me at first, but then, as always, this magical thing happens. You walk up to that familiar section of craft cans and bottles, just like you might see at Kelly’s, Total Wine, or Jubilation, except … lo and behold, there are new and exciting cans and bottles that we’ve never seen before! It’s like visiting a new candy store, except candy doesn’t magically change from state to state, unlike beer. I loaded up a few six-packs of purely Colorado stuff, biting my knuckles as I purposely passed up the six-pack of 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. I was in Colorado and was going to bring home local.

I got a nice selection of different styles, and tried to keep to stuff I couldn’t get here in the good old NM without knowing a guy who knows a guy. I pulled some Avery Brewing Co. that I didn’t get to try last time in Boulder. I picked up some Steamworks Brewing Co., because I LOVED what they were throwin’ down. I really dug their Third Eye PA. The hops in that beer could totally bring you to a higher consciousness. I grabbed Odell because we somehow missed their tent at the brewfest, and I also threw in a couple Ska brews because according to the beer clerk, they would not be making the Mexican Logger anymore, due to some issue with production, that and I couldn’t leave Ska Brewing completely out of my Durango trip. It just wouldn’t seem right.


Durango 4

Flights of joy.

With four quality breweries around town and plenty of brew pubs and beer bars set right in their historic downtown area, this little mountain town is an excellent location to immerse yourself in Colorado beer. The nightlife and restaurants are as varied as the brews and drinks they serve, the people are friendlier than you could ever hope for, and the green chile is nice surprise on that side of the state border. And they show OUR local news! What’s up with that? With ideal locations to sleep, to cure hangovers, and to pull decent beer hauls, Durango is an excellent venue for a foam-filled beercation. Plus, it’s only about three and a half hours from Albuquerque.


— Luke


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