Today’s post will be a bit of a whirlwind journey through southern Colorado, so each review will merely be what I felt were the highlights at each stop.
First up was Walters Brewery in Pueblo. Now, for many people up north Pueblo has a bit of a mixed reputation: it’s an old steel town and has the look and feel of a place you’d see in the rust belt — lots of decaying industrial spaces, a web of railroad tracks and a fair amount of dilapidated and abandoned homes. For some people Pueblo is downright depressing. Between the industrial blight and its desert climate it lacks most of the things we in Colorado take for granted (mainly mountains, trees and abundant snow). But for the adventurous, Pueblo offers a taste of things that we’d normally have to travel far away to experience. The vibe is more New Mexico, for starters, and with that comes a love of chilies, namely the Pueblo Chili.
Wisely, Walters has chosen to capitalize on the things that make Pueblo unique in our state. It’s located adjacent to a railyard and a crumbling factory that would look completely at home in Pittsburgh or Detroit, so the atmosphere is about as blue collar and urban as one could ask for in this state, and it’s quite wonderful if you know what you’re getting into. There isn’t a hint of pretentiousness or snobbery to be found here.
The “Pueblo-ness” of Walters is perfectly expressed in their beer. The brand is a resurrection of a century old lager that was mass produced for the steel workers back in the day (much like Tivoli up in Denver), so their flagship beers are light and sessionable, not unlike other regional macros such as Lone Star or Rainier. What’s great, though, is this style matches perfectly with the addition of green chilies, making theirs an easy drinking masterpiece. If you want the absolute perfect “lawnmower” beer for a warm, sunny day, you couldn’t possibly do better than this. For the green chili beer alone, Walters is highly recommended, and for anyone seeking a rough-and-tumble “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” atmosphere the taproom is downright essential.
Now, since you’re all the way down in Pueblo, it’d be a shame if you didn’t drive the additional 45 minutes southwest into the mountains and up the gorgeous Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway to see Colorado’s greatest folk-art oddity: Bishop Castle.
Built entirely by one very obsessed man, this stone-and-mortal colossus is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the continental United States and is very much worth the side-trip, if only for the majestic scenery on the way up the mountain. Just be forewarned: the owner, rather unsurprisingly, is, uh, eccentric to say the least. Anyone sensitive about political statements or prone to arguments about the subject would be well advised to steer clear as the property is covered in signs denouncing any and all government.
On the return trip up I-25 we stopped at three breweries in Colorado Springs, two of which are still in their infancy and one that’s nearly a year old. First up was Gold Camp Brewery, a cute little place that takes its name rather seriously.
Boasting decor not unlike you’d expect in an old west gold mine (exposed wooden slats as decorative ceiling supports and hanging light bulbs that you’d imagine suspended from a rocky tunnel), the atmosphere is a pleasant trip back in time (even while residing in a strip-mall). Plus, a local folk/bluegrass band practices there regularly, so the sounds truly transport visitors to a bygone era.
The beer was rather standard fare (I settled on a satisfactory dry stout) and wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing, but the service and vibe were more than enough to make Gold Camp well worth a stop.
Next came Fossil Brewing located on the west side of town heading toward Manitou Springs. These guys have wisely chosen to use the region’s abundance of paleontological wonders as their theme (what with Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument just down the road) and it’s made for a delightful taproom you’ll want to bring your kids to….were this not a brewery. But for the kids-at-heart, this place is awesome. The walls are all adorned with giant dinosaur casts on loan from a local scientist, so stepping into the building is like a trip to a museum.
What’s more, the beer is damned good. I had a salted coriander and dill Gose-style beer that was a fine follow-up to the green chili beer from earlier in the day and would also make a perfect summer sessionable.
Lastly, I headed to the nearby (and brand new) Storybook Brewing Company. The stop was very brief (as it was the fourth brewery of the day), but in the short time I was there I got the sense that this is a true neighborhood gathering place — everyone seemed to know everyone else, so the atmosphere was cheerful, talkative and pleasant all around.
Plus, the reading material at the bar was right up my alley…
The service was exceptional and the view of sunset over Pikes Peak was stunning beyond words. If you have the opportunity I’d highly recommend giving them a visit around dusk, if only for the view (I couldn’t indulge in more than a mere taster of their Strawberry Blonde as I was getting ready to head back up to Denver). Nonetheless, Storybook Brewing felt like a place that warranted a more extended visit in the near future.