Come for the adventure, stay for the beer at one of Durango’s breweries
It’s no secret that Durango boasts an avid outdoor community. It’s also no secret that locals enjoy a quality craft beer after a long day of hiking, biking, riding or shredding. With four main breweries (and one honorable mention), you’re sure to find the right beer to pair with your next Durango adventure.
Animas Brewing Company – Boating
Located just off the Animas River near Rotary Park, Animas Brewing draws inspiration from its namesake river. Boasting a list of beers with names such as the Riverside Kolsch and The River Gose Through It, you’re bound to find a beer that matches your boating preference.
Animas Brewing uses local geography and history to name its beers. For example, the Lost Souls Lager is a tip to the river that runs through town. “Rio de las Animas Perdidas,” the original Spanish name for the river, translates to “The River of Lost Souls.” And the Broken Bridge Imperial IPA pays tribute to one of the Class IV+ rapids found on the Upper Animas River.
- River Section & Beer Pairing
Many of Animas Brewing’s beers are named after features or rapids on the Upper Animas, but when it comes to the Upper “A,” the Imperial Red takes the top spot.
Boasting a 7.8% ABV, the Upper “A” is just as big and bold as the Class IV – Class V waters that make the Upper Animas so rowdy. On this section of the Animas, the river drops at a rate of 85 feet per mile with 100+ continuous rapids. Big water calls for a big beer.
Carver Brewing Company – Backpacking
Imagine hiking 486 miles on the Colorado Trail from Denver to find a cold beer waiting for you at the end. That’s exactly what backpackers can expect at Carver Brewing upon completion of the thru-hike.
Carver Brewing is a natural spot for thru-hikers to come since breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served, and they can grab a beer as early as 7 a.m.
Named by co-founder Bill Carver for the trail which takes most backpackers about two months to complete, the Colorado Trail Nut Brown is a malty, Northern English Brown Ale with a balanced hop bitterness. “It seems like a good idea that (thru-hikers) should celebrate with the beer that’s named after the trail they just hiked,” said co-owner Mike Hurst.
In his free time, Hurst is a devoted cyclist and trail crew leader for local nonprofit Trails 2000, which helps build and maintain trails in the area. Carver Brewing holds several trail-related events including Trails 2000’s annual spring membership party and the Colorado Trail gala in the fall that attracts trail doctors from all across the state. It’s the brewery’s way of saying thanks to everyone who has helped maintain the Colorado Trail throughout the year.
And while the dates are not yet finalized, Hurst and now 13-year-old daughter, Hailey, have committed to do the Colorado Trail as a thru-hike.
- Trail Hike/Ride & Beer Pairing
It’s a given that the pairing that makes the most sense is the Colorado Trail and the Nut Brown, so we decided to let Carver Brewing share another unique side of their business. Take a step onto their patio and you won’t miss the massive blue bicycle statue. This statue has its own beer named after it: the Big Bike Double IPA.
When asked for his favorite hike and beer pairing in Durango, Hurst’s response was that his favorite hike is actually a mountain bike ride. With that being said, you will find Hurst riding the West Animas Mountain descent — a ride characterized by a lot of climbing followed by a lot of technical downhill — and pairing it with the Big Bike Double IPA.
Why? According to Hurst, the beer is just like the ride: You go big.
“It’s intense, it’s flavorful, it’s balanced,” Hurst said. “It’s got a little bit of everything — malt sweetness with a lot of citrusy, tropical fruit hop character.”
It’s important to note that the Animas Mountain Trail is also a popular hike in Durango, especially if you’re looking for a different change of pace. We would still pair the Bike Bike Double IPA with this 5.9-mile loop north of town that gains almost 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles.
Ska Brewing – Mountain Biking
From post-ride beers after a quick spin in the Horse Gulch trail system to short track races that circle the brewery before sending off the loading dock, Ska Brewing’s involvement in the mountain bike community does not go unnoticed.
Ska Brewing is a big stakeholder in the Durango biking community. Along with a decent amount of employees that are avid mountain bikers, Ska Brewing is also a sponsor of the Ska/Zia/Trek racing team — a team that boasts a lot of talent, and is also community-focused.
“It’s not about the podium that we’re concerned about,” said Ska Brewing co-founder Dave Thibodeau, “It’s about community service and building trails and mentoring up-and-coming riders.”
Additional community outreach includes Ska employees who dedicate time to help with Durango DEVO, a local kids’ mountain biking program, while also making sure to keep the beer separate from the mountain bike mentoring. They are also a sponsor of the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race held at Phil’s World every spring.
“It’s a big part of who we are and what we do,” Thibodeau said.
- Trail Ride & Beer Pairing
Grab a six-pack of Moral Panic Brut IPA and head into the mighty San Juan Mountains.
Thibodeau suggests checking out the Colorado Trail and Engineer Mountain area north of Durango for some epic, high-country trail riding.
Why Moral Panic? At a little over 5.5% ABV, the Moral Panic does not have a crazy high ABV like other IPAs boast. “It’s super refreshing because it finishes a little dry,” explained Thibodeau. “It’s got a lot of tropical hops, especially in the nose, but it’s still a pretty light beer.”
Steamworks Brewing Company – Skiing/Snowboarding
Aside from this weekly Friday beer/ski tour where you’ll find the Steamworks owners Kris Oyler and Brian McEachron spreading beer and wisdom across the mountain, the “Steam Team” hosts a number of events at the mountain — from clambakes to Osprey pack giveaways. But this isn’t the only reason Steamworks Brewing pairs so well with skiing and snowboarding. A lot of the employees at the downtown restaurant spend their days off at the resort or in the backcountry. Steamworks offers discounted Purgatory season passes to their employees. And as for management, “we go cat skiing up at Jones Pass,” head brewer Ken Martin said. “It’s just a good weekend where we’re still talking about work stuff, but everyone’s raging and skiing deep powder.”
- Ski Run & Beer Pairing
Head to the backside of Purgatory and slip into the tall spruce trees of Paul’s Park, and you’ll have a better understanding of one of Steamworks’ most popular seasonal beers — the Spruce Goose. Not only is Paul’s Park nice on a powder day with a good steep pitch, but “you’re rippin’ through those Blue spruce and that Engelmann spruce,” explained Martin, “and those are the very trees that we harvest to make that beer unique and make it what it is.”
Martin also recommends the Spruce Goose pairing because it is a winter warmer ale. “It’s 8.5%, so it’s kind of a nice thing to have at the end of a ski day,” Martin said.
Honorable Mention: Chainless Brewing
The newest brewery in Durango, Chainless Brewing, resides in the old Durango Brewing Company building on North Main Avenue. Similar to the flagship Durango breweries, Chainless draws inspiration from the mountain bike community with beers named Clipless Wheat and Broken Link Lager. We’re excited to see what Chainless will bring to the table.