It’s about time I adjusted my attitude toward ski town breweries. In the past I’ve been a bit harsh toward them — a few of my least favorite taprooms have all been located in touristy parts of the state and, for a while at least, it felt like investors were just throwing money at breweries for the sake of exploiting the ample tourist dollars. Many of these places felt devoid of the passion and drive a small-time homebrewer brings to a new business and more like soulless country clubs.
But those days seem to be over.
A string of up-and-comers have shown that ski towns are not the exclusive domain of million dollar taprooms as more and more “regular guy” businesses take root. A prime example of this is the brand-new Vail Brewing Company located on the outskirts of the valley (there’s no need to navigate a maze of gargantuan lodges when visiting these dudes as their building is nowhere near a ski run).
This tiny watering hole feels like a place for people who actually live and work in Vail to go to, as the constant barrage of customers greeting their friends would attest. It seemed virtually everyone in the place knew one another, and that’s cool.
So yeah, they’re small and local-friendly, and the taproom is perfect for hanging around the fireplace and killing time in a non-stuffy locale. But how’s the beer?
In a word: fantastic. The amber is among the best in the state, the brown is superb and the lime wheat would be perfect for those few and far between summer days devoid of any snow outside. Basically, if you’re a malt-forward beer lover like myself then Vail Brewing is a tiny slice of heaven. If you’re a hop-head you might want to head toward Edwards and hit up the wonderful Crazy Mountain Brewery. Either way, you’ve got a couple of excellent options relatively nearby, thus making the Vail valley a worthy beer destination and not just a skier’s mecca.
Continuing our trek to ski towns (while having no intention of actually skiing), we headed another hour or so west and hit the still-somewhat-new Roaring Fork Brewing Company in Carbondale.
Located in the bottom floor of what looked more like an apartment building than anything else, Roaring Fork’s diminutive tasting room certainly has the cozy-factor taken care of…and any place with random and bizarre paintings lining every wall earns a special place in my bitter, dorky little heart:
The tiny space was fairly packed, so we didn’t get much in the way of personalized service, but it was quick and got the job done. Plus, a flight of 5oz tasters was only $5, which appealed to my miserly ways. I wasn’t blown away by the beers on hand (I had a lager, a porter, a barrel-aged saison and an IPA), but all were perfectly adequate. Meanwhile, my girlfriend loved the wine-barrel aged saison, and it’s always a major plus when she’s happy after having been dragged halfway across the state for my beer obsession.
Overall, the taproom itself is worth checking out if you’re in the area, but I personally prefer Carbondale Beer Works. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have yet another option in the region.