Beercation Guide: A Wolfe comes to Pagosa Springs

Posted: April 17, 2015 by Franz Solo in Beercation Destinations, Out-of-Town Brews
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The good folks at Pagosa Brewing have stepped up their game.

The good folks at Pagosa Brewing have stepped up their game.

We Sturms made our yearly pilgrimage to Pagosa Springs for what we like to call “decomposition time,” where all of your cares and troubles are melted away in the sulfurous waters and wonderful craft brews in a mountain town that screams of the freedom to relax and enjoy the finer things in life.

Last year brought the arrival of Riff-Raff Brewing to the scene alongside eight-year stalwart Pagosa Brewing, and this year we have the addition of Wolfe Brewery as well. It has been interesting to note our favorite brews from year to year as breweries have adapted to the competition and found or rediscovered what makes them unique. Last year we were surprised by the quality of Riff-Raff’s brews, which we enjoyed a bit more than Pagosa’s offerings.

They make just a few beers at Pagosa.

They make just a few beers at Pagosa.

This time around, Pagosa Brewing had made somewhat of a return to dominance, in my opinion. The atmosphere, the beers, the beer garden, and the overall vibe of the place made me fall in love all over again. Mrs. Solo and I both adore the green chile beer and consumed most of the last keg over the course of the week we were there. I was also quite impressed with the hop build on their Powder Day IPA, and really enjoyed the Kayaker Class V Double Cream Ale as well as their Eagle ESB. This was definitely the consensus best overall lineup of beers we tried over the course of the week.

We also had a real treat on April Fool’s Day where the scheduler for the brewery put all of the brewing staff on as servers for the day and so we were served by the head brewer, which was a real treat. Expansion at Pagosa is in the works, as there are plans to take over the building next door and increase production substantially in the next year or so, which is exciting news indeed. The beer garden now has a couple of neat fire pits where we warmed our frozen hands over during a game or two of corn hole. This would be a wonderful place to hang out during the summer and enjoy a pint outdoors under the Ponderosa canopy.

Franz Solo was all smiles at Riff-Raff.

Franz Solo was all smiles at Riff-Raff.

On to Riff-Raff! The thing I love most about this brewery is the vibe. The Big Lebowski is a major theme on the menu and with the place overall, from the music to the menu items to the laid-back staff and customers. I give the nod to their oatmeal stout as my favorite stout in Pagosa and the Hopgoblin IPA is also damn good. I was hoping beyond hope to snag a pint of the World Beer Cup bronze medal-winning Weapon of Self Destruction Imperial Stout that I had enjoyed so much last January, but alas, it was not meant to be. The smoked wings were just as amazing as we remembered from last time through, as was everything else on the food menu.

I felt, however, that the lineup of beers other than the two I mentioned already (and El Duende the green chile beer) had slipped just a tad in overall quality, although that could just be my yearning for the superbly strong flavors of New Mexican beers that I have grown accustomed to. Hopefully we can make it back up to enjoy the winter lineup next year, which was just ridiculously good.

The newest brewery in Pagosa is worth checking out.

The newest brewery in Pagosa is worth checking out.

We went to the new Wolfe Brewing and sampled a flight on our last day. These are definitely more East Coast and English-style beers than the others we had consumed in Pagosa. The place is quite large, a rustic barn in style with a large outdoor beer garden, many large screens for your favorite sporting events, and a few hunting trophies adorning the walls as well. We met and spoke with the owner of the brewery, who told us that he decided to open the joint upon becoming bored with retirement as there were only so many hunting trips and the like an individual could go on before growing tired of the exercise.

He told us the head brewer was a part of Flying Dog back in the day (prior to its move east) and is working on training his son and others to brew as well. Overall, I was reminded of the English-style beers from Second Street as we made our way through the samples and I have high hopes for what is to come from Wolfe. We were disappointed that the stout was not on tap when we were there, but we did find a gem of a Scottish ale, which we all enjoyed full pints of while there.

So that was one marvelous vacation, and many a good pint were enjoyed. Go forth and relax in the springs and enjoy pints at each of these splendid breweries that grace the Shangri La that is Pagosa Springs!


— Franz Solo

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