Pagosa Springs, CO, is a popular travel destination with many activities to enjoy: Fantastic skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, fishing and hiking throughout the summer, and therapeutic hot springs year around. While most of the country enjoys this outdoorsy town, the rest of Colorado oddly ignores this part of the state. For that reason, we made the five hour drive to south central Colorado to check out what Denver is missing. One of the area’s top draws is Pagosa Brewing Company.
Pagosa Brewing and Restaurant features a Tap Room, a cozy dining room and a huge outdoor beer garden. As we walked into the restaurant, the hostess asked us if we wanted indoor or outdoor seating. We chose outdoor on this beautiful August day. While following the hostess we noticed several four-legged creatures hiding under tables and lounging next to trees; the beer garden was dog friendly! We excused ourselves so we could return to the motel and get our dog.
Back with canine Larry in tow, we were seated at a table under the festival tent next to the stage. Unfortunately, there was no band this night, but there was plenty of food and beer for two people and their dog who spent the day hiking trails in San Juan National Forest.
Pagosa Brewing had eleven beers on tap. Diners can order a Taster Tray with small pours of all 11 beers, meant to be shared, but we opted not to do that. A little tip our waiter told us was that we could order 10 ounce pours instead of pints, even though it wasn’t on the menu. He also brought a giant water bowl for the dog.
The brewery had eight Flagship Brews and from light to dark they were: Wolf Creek Wheat, Kayaker Cream, Pagosa Pale Ale, Powder Day IPA, Eagle ESB, Rodeo Rider Red, Poor Richard’s Ale and Soaker’s Stout. All but the Wheat have won regional and national awards, however, Poor Richard’s Ale had an incredibly unique story.
Pagosa Head Brewer Tony Simmons created an original Colonial Ale based on beer brewed during Colonial times using corn and molasses. His recipe was chosen to represent the entire brewing industry for Benjamin Franklin’s 300th Birthday Event in Philadelphia back in 2006. The American Homebrewer’s Association also selected the recipe for its Big Brew Day in 2008. Since then over 100 breweries in 35 states have brewed Poor Richard’s Ale, including Anheuser-Busch. Drinking Poor Richard’s Ale was taking a step back in time. This nutty, light brown ale had just a hint of sweetness from the molasses and a surprisingly light taste for a dark beer.
2012 World Beer Champion Gold Medal winner Kayaker Cream was a true Bavarian beer. A beautiful golden color with thousands of tiny bubbles ascending the glass, this light beer was also their most popular.
Powder Day IPA was fully loaded with hops, which my husband enjoyed, and the waiter said the beer is popular with the après ski crowd in winter. Although bitter on the palate, the finish was crisper than most IPAs, which usually linger way too long on the tongue. The twice dry-hopped Pagosa Pale Ale had a milder flavor, much more to my liking, and contained local barley malt.
Another local favorite was the Wolf Creek Wheat and this unfiltered wheat was perfect for a warm summer day. Simmons also used Wolf Creek Wheat as a fruit beer and the current fruit flavor on our visit was Peachy Peach made with Palisade Peaches from Colorado’s Western Slope.
Although we didn’t try them, Pagosa had two specialty beers on tap during our visit, the Real Cask Ale and British Amber Ale along with their seasonal Chili Verde Cerveza. Trained by brewing schools in both Germany and the US, Mr. Simmons was a prolific brewer and I discovered on Pagosa’s website (and you are welcome to check my math) that he brews over 100 beers and 48 of them have won medals.
Of course, what’s good beer without good food and Pagosa Brewing didn’t disappoint either. We savored the Italian Pizza, crafted with house-made sauce (sugar-free) and mozzarella and Asiago cheese along with a perfectly well-done Angus beef and Swiss cheeseburger.
We enjoyed our visit to Pagosa Brewing taking the time to chat with several other traveling patrons and their dogs. What we discovered was visitors to Pagosa Springs come mainly from the Southern US – Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Those from northern latitudes are really missing out here, especially those who enjoy craft beer. I recommend discovering what the southern half of the US already knows, Pagosa Springs and Pagosa Brewing are great places to visit. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Pagosa Brewing has received accolades from periodicals around the country including, Sunset Magazine, the New York Times, the LA Times and National Geographic Adventure. Come for the weekend or come for the week, but definitely come for the beer. And don’t forget to bring the dog.