Posts Tagged ‘Carver Brewing Co.’

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.

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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.

Nightlife

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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 …

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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!

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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.

Summary

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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.

Cheers!

— Luke

The 16th annual San Juan Brewfest took place on Saturday, August 23, in beautiful downtown Durango. Benefiting the United Way of SW Colorado, the brewfest had a great turnout, despite the rain that threatened to dampen the mood. Held at Buckley Park near the northern tip of Main Street, there couldn’t be an easier event to find, or find your way home from.

There was quite the crowd at the San Juan Brewfest.

There was quite the crowd at the San Juan Brewfest.

There were over 50 breweries, with 35 from Colorado, six from New Mexico, and nine were from breweries ranging from the east coast to the west coast, including a few macrobreweries. Macros always reminded me of the old guy at the college parties. “Dude are you like, a professor or something?” But I kid the big guys. With all that the San Juan Brewfest had to offer, you could sample a beer poured by a familiar face from the likes of Turtle Mountain or Taos Mesa, you could get to know your northern neighbors’ beers a bit better, or you could try a few swallows from far away lands like Boston, Juneau, or Petaluma. (A full list of breweries is below.)

As far as brewfesters go, everyone was very friendly and laid back in that Colorado kinda way. On occasion, there were those folks who were a bit over-excited to talk about their interests, like trail-riding or ciders. Where did that cider guy come from? But there’s nothing wrong with that. Passion is what fuels the craft beer industry, am I right? So keep on keepin’ on, cider guy!

Fans dance to the Hill Stompers.

Fans dance to the Hill Stompers, a band from Los Alamos.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, sampling, noshing on German sausages straight from the grill, and dancing wildly inappropriately (in front of children) to the rockin’ local bands. One of those local bands happened to be local to New Mexico. Have you guys heard the Hill Stompers from Los Alamos? Well do it, already! They’re like a circus marching band fueled by candy corn and cerveza.

Getting to the beer, there were over a hundred beers to try at the brewfest, including some breweries bringing more than the promised two. It was impossible to try them all, or maybe we didn’t try hard enough. With the free taster glass and a handy notepad, we set out to pulverize our palates. And boy did we! My Untappd App sure got a workout the next day. As for my personal favorites, Great Divide had a fantastic dark, roasted, powerful warrior of a beer called the Claymore Scotch Ale (7.7% ABV) that just knocked my hop-socks off. I also really enjoyed Upslope Brewing Co.’s Belgian Style Pale Ale (7.5% ABV), the Face Down Brown by Telluride Brewing Co. (5.7% ABV), and of course the Kriek from Santa Fe Brewing was way up there on my list.

Marble's tent was a popular spot for beer lovers.

Marble’s tent was a popular spot for beer lovers.

There was also a beer that I won’t name that I really liked but couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it dawned on me as I finished that last swig; it REALLY reminded me of something racked from one of La Cumbre’s tanks. Was it one of Elevated IPAs long-lost sisters? I couldn’t tell! I could, however, go on and on about the beers, but there were so many different styles. Most breweries brought an IPA and a pale ale, others brought reds, Belgians, and there were a handful of saisons and sours. But why not just grab my Untappd name and take a look at my journey? LukeDukeSF. Now, I’ll try not to say too much more about this, but after sampling so many IPAs, I can definitely say I prefer New Mexico IPAs to Colorado IPAs. Nuff said.

The competition that day was as hot as the sun, when it did decide to come out. For the Judge’s Choice, Left Hand Brewing Company won third place for their Milk Stout Nitro. Our very own Marble Brewery won second place with their already-award-winning Pilsner. “505! 505!” I chanted silently in my head as I heard the news. Best beer of the fest went to Elevation Beer Company’s Avis IV. And finally, winning People’s Choice for best beer was the Brown Bear Ale from Aspen Brewing Co.

With great weather, great beers, and great company, it was a brewfest to remember, or try REALLY hard to remember. Thanks, Durango, for a great time. See you next year!

Cheers,

Luke!

Everyone was left smiling at the end of the brewfest.

Everyone was left smiling at the end of the brewfest.

2014 San Juan Brewfest Breweries

AC Golden (Golden, CO), Alaskan Brewing (Juneau), Aspen Brewing (CO), Avalanche Brewing (Silverton, CO), Blue Moon Brewing (Golden, CO), Boston Beer, Bottom Shelf Brewery (Bayfield, CO), Boulder Beer (CO), Breckenridge Brewery (CO), Brew Pub and Kitchen (Durango), Bristol Brewing (Colorado Springs), Carver Brewing (Durango), Durango Brewing, Elevation Beer (Poncha Springs, CO), Eske’s Brew Pub & Eatery (Taos), Fort Collins Brewery (CO), Great Divide Brewery (Denver), Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing (Chippewa Falls, WI), Kannah Creek Brewing (Grand Junction, CO), Lagunitas Brewing (Petaluma, CA), Left Hand Brewing (Longmont, CO), Lumberyard Brewing (Flagstaff, AZ), Marble Brewery, Moab Brewery (UT), Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing (Ouray, CO), New Belguim Brewing (Fort Collins, CO), Oak Creek Brewing (Sedona, AZ), Odell Brewing (Fort Collins, CO), Oskar Blues Brewery (Longmont, CO), Ouray Brewery (CO), Pagosa Brewing and Grill (Pagosa Springs, CO), Palisade Brewing (Palisade, CO), Riff Raff Brewing (Pagosa Springs, CO), Roaring Fork Beer (Carbondale, CO), Rocky Mountain Brewery (Colorado Springs, CO), San Luis Valley Brewing (Alamosa, CO), Santa Fe Brewing, Shock Top Brewing (St. Louis), Sierra Nevada Brewing (Chico, CA), Ska Brewing (Durango), Steamworks Brewing (Durango), Strange Craft Beer (Denver), Taos Mesa Brewing, Telluride Brewing (CO), Three Barrel Brewing (Del Norte, CO), Three Rivers Brewery, Turtle Mountain Brewing, Two Rascals Brewing (Montrose, CO), Upslope Brewing (Boulder, CO), Wolfe Brewing (Pagosa Springs, CO)

Stoutmeister and E-Rock continue their trek through the breweries of the Four Corners area with a stop at Carver Brewing Co. in Durango.

The full list of funky-named beers at Carver.

By the time E-Rock and I got back to Carver (we had a beerless breakfast there early in the day) to finally sample their beers, we were a couple of tired bloggers (after our samplers we didn’t even order full pints, that’s how worn out we were after three breweries in one day). We were also full of beer, so it was nice we could walk there from our hotel. From the outside Carver appears to be another modest local restaurant on Durango’s Main Ave. As such, we were not expecting much from the beer on tap, figuring it would be lighter for the tourists like Steamworks was. Oh, how nice it is for a brewery to jump up and surprise you.

Carver boasted an even dozen beers on tap, ranging from the Lightner Creek Lager (which we forgot to try, sorry) to the Power House Porter. They offered up a good variety of tasty styles, brought to us in sampler trays of five beers apiece (we got a bonus sample of the Celebrated Raspberry Wheat Ale, see below for a review on that crazy beer). Despite being a family restaurant, there was a couple with what appeared to be triplets (lord help them) behind us, the staff was attentive and knowledgeable about the beers on hand.

E-Rock’s sampler, at left, featured quite the variety of styles.

As we did before, E-Rock and I divided up the beers as to what was more geared to our tastes.

La Plata Pilsner: Light, with a mild flavor, this Czech-style lager is a good starter beer, perfect for the warm summer nights. — Stoutmeister

Garden Brau Hefe-Weizen: It’s hard to make a unique hefe. This beer was sweet with a hint of banana. It was just enough of a twist to stand out in a good way among other standard hefes. — E-Rock

Old Oak Amber Ale: As the name implies, this non-traditional amber is aged on oak chips, giving it a slightly smoked, earthier flavor, without the usual sweetness of an amber. Definitely different and worth a try. — Stoutmeister

Jack Rabbit Pale Ale: This ale is loaded with hops and flavor. It definitely had more bite than any of the ales we had at the Durango Brewing Company. This was one of Carvers standout beers in my opinion. — E-Rock

E.S.B.: More traditional in nature than Ska’s ESB, this one has less hops and more of a smooth flavor. Very well balanced between its hops and malts. If you like the ESB at Nexus, you’ll like Carver’s version. — Stoutmeister

Double Pepper Saison: The name here is a little misleading, but in a good way. The Double Pepper contains black pepper and peppermint. Mixed with other spices, its ingredients made for a pleasantly unique flavor more reminiscent of a minty pumpkin ale then Eskie’s Green Chile IPA, thankfully. — E-Rock

Stoutmeister’s sampler tray at Carver, ranging from light (pilsner) to dark (porter).

Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale: They do good things with brown ales up in Durango, I will say that. Much like Ska’s Buster Nut Brown, this version has a good flavor, with hints of caramel and a little bit of a smoked taste. Lighter than some browns, it may not quite reach the heights of Il Vicino’s Slow Down Brown, but it comes darned close. — Stoutmeister

Twilight IPA: I was surprised to find that this IPA was less hoppy than the Jack Rabbit Ale. It tasted a little weak to me. For any hops-loving Burqueños doing the Durango brewery tour, I would recommend forgoing the Twilight IPA and heading straight for the Jack Rabbit. — E-Rock

Power House Porter: Coffee! So much coffee! Prepare yourself for one of the burlier coffee-flavored beers around. The power house moniker is no joke. If you love coffee beers (think La Cumbre’s Cafe con Leche), you’ll adore this little devil. — Stoutmeister

Cascade Canyon Cask IPA: This IPA was a little too subtle for my palate, and the flavors that came through were hard to describe. Where the Durango Brewing Co. made unique and delicious ales, I think Carver’s offerings were a little flat in comparison. Their forte seems to be their darker beers. — E-Rock

Celebrated Raspberry Wheat Ale: There is a little too much raspberry in this ale for my tastes. I would have a hard time finishing an entire pint. Luckily I just had a sample. — E-Rock; Tried a couple sips of this one as well, gotta say it reminded me of an infamous concoction, “the cocaine shooter,” that I drank way too many of on my 21st birthday in Tucson (let’s not talk about how long ago that was). It’s not a beer, it’s just a sweet little thing that’ll get you drunk after a while (if you are so inclined). And leave you with a horrible hangover, like my 21st birthday did to me. — Stoutmeister

All right, that’s it from the four breweries in Durango. If we had to rank them, we’d go 1. Ska, 2. Durango Brewing, 3. Carver (2 and 3 are very close), 4. Steamworks (well behind the rest). We did make a side trip to Farmington’s 3 Rivers Brewery on our way back to ABQ, so look for that review very soon, even if my memory of that place will always be tainted by Germany’s meltdown against Italy being on the TV there. DAMN YOU BALOTELLI!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister