Let’s go back, waaaay back. Millions of years ago the heat of the earth’s core broke through the planet’s crust somewhere underneath the Rocky Mountains. The heat that poured out of the chamber boiled water hidden deep in the underground caverns of those mountains. Unable to be contained at that temperature, the scorching hot water had to go somewhere. So it flowed out of the rock fractures and created a natural hot springs at the edge of Glenwood Canyon.
What did humans do when they discovered all those suds? To the Ute Tribe of Colorado, the springs were for healing. It remains a place of healing today with 3.5 million gallons of water containing 15 different minerals pouring into the thoroughly modern Glenwood Hot Springs and Spa complex just off I-70 about three and half hours from Denver.
Some more recent history of the springs – In 1887, Doc Holliday arrived in the town of Glenwood Springs hoping the mountain air and hot springs would cure his tuberculosis. They didn’t so he was buried in Pioneer Cemetery. In the last century, President Teddy Roosevelt was a regular visitor to Glenwood Springs. To attract tourists from Denver, a rooming house called Denver Rooms opened in 1914 right next to the Star Hotel. Both hotels were located on the other side of the Colorado River from the hot springs. Also in 1914, the Home Brewing Company opened nearby. The brewers hoped to brew 15,000 barrels a year. Unfortunately, on January 1, 1916, Colorado passed a prohibition law, a few years before the federal amendment. So the brewery went away, but the hotels remained. Over time the owners of the two hotels combined and expanded their properties and in 1938 became Hotel Denver.
In 1991, locals Steven and April Carver purchased the Hotel Denver. The hotel already had a restaurant called The Grille, but harking back to the Home Brewing Company the Carvers thought a brewpub might be a better idea. After consulting with the Carver Brewing Company in Durango (no relation), they opened the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company in 1996. Now there are suds on both sides of the Colorado River.
Glenwood Canyon Brewing is a large pub with a small town feel. The place has not one, but two wooden bars lined with taps of their local potions. On tap are four year-round brews and four more seasonal brews. Twelve dollars gets patrons a taste platter of all eight beers. Their staple beers are the Grizzly Creek Raspberry Wheat, St. James Irish Red, Hanging Lake Honey Ale, Vapor Cave IPA.
The Vapor Cave IPA (2008 World Beer Cup Bronze medal winner) was named after the Yampah natural steam caves near the hot springs. Inhaling the hoppy aroma of this brew was like breathing in the natural vapors of the caves. This dry-hopped beer’s taste was light and crisp. The Hanging Lake Honey Ale was an appropriate afternoon choice after hiking to Hanging Lake that morning. The Honey Ale was not a sweet beer, but mild and made with local honey. Like the waterfalls of the lake, this beer is cool and refreshing. The St. James Irish Red has a subtle red amber color with a full-bodied finish. The Raspberry Wheat was completely unexpected. The wheat taste was subtle, with a raspberry finish. Both flavors were distinct and separate.
Seasonal beers on tap included the Crystal River Helles Lager, which had a sour flavor and strong finish. The American Wheat Sunlight was easy to drink, light and refreshing, a dangerous beer after a day of hiking the canyon. The Old Depot Porter was smooth and surprisingly light despite its dark coffee color. The Rio Grande Trail Double Pale Ale was the hoppiest beer of the group.
Those having a meal at this establishment will find a hardy complement of burgers, sandwiches and pastas to go with these flavorful beers. Whether hiking in Glenwood Canyon or swimming in the hot springs, there will be something filling to fit everybody’s palate at this restaurant. Macho nachos anyone?
After soaking in the 90+ degree water of Glenwood Hot Springs, cross the bridge to the Hotel Denver and enjoy the cooler foam of the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. And if you get too pruney from the pool or the beer or both, book a room at the hotel. Don’t risk that drive back to Denver.