The Breweries of Pagosa Springs

In Exploring Colorado by Chris

Pagosa Springs Breweries 08-2014 (5)

For the past two years we’ve made the 6 hour trip to Durango for the Ska Brewing Anniversary Party each September. But while Ska Brewing is our destination, it’s only one stop in our journey. We make the most of this road trip by visiting our favorite places along the route, which always includes a stop to the fun and lovely town of Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs is a beautiful, bustling tourist town located just 35 miles north of the New Mexico border in Archuleta County, Colorado. It’s actually the only incorporated municipality in the county, surrounded by the 3 million acre San Juan National Forest, as well as the Southern Ute Indian land. Located on a high desert plateau 7000 feet above sea level, Pagosa Springs offers incredible views of the Rocky Mountains and lots of fun attractions. The town got its name from Pah gosah, the Ute Indian word for “healing waters,” because Pagosa Springs is home to the worlds deepest geothermal hot spring, and the mineral-rich water here is said to be therapeutic. You can soak in any one of three hot spring pools in town year-round, and depending on the season you can also partake in their great hiking, fishing, rafting, golfing, hunting or skiing. Best of all when you’re done being outdoorsy you can head to one of three local breweries, which is where we were headed during our recent trip through Pagosa Springs.

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Our first brewery stop was at Riff Raff Brewing Company. Riff Raff Brewing opened in 2013 in downtown Pagosa Springs. Their brewery can be found in what appears to have once been a Victorian home, which gave the place a real comfortable, homey feel. We settled into their sunny “front yard” at a small table in the shade of a huge pine tree. It was warm and welcoming atmosphere, as was the service we got from their staff. There was quite a large beer selection, several year-round favorites, a few seasonal brews, and some guest taps and wines. Being that this was our first stop of many, we limited ourselves to a just a few samples, but still found some really stand-out beers. The Hopgoblin IPA was delicious, with a wonderful citrus aroma and delicious grapefruit finish. Their seasonal Spruce Juice was amazing if you like a little pine in your brew, which I do! Finally, we both really loved the Hazelnut Porter, for its nutty, creamy flavor and soft mouthfeel. As good as the beers were, the food looked just as tasty. We didn’t arrive hungry but we were tempted by the food menu, which offered a variety of tasty treats and great happy hour deals. Their “Nacho Bidness” looked like something we definitely need to check out, so next time we’ll come hungry.

Next stop was at Pagosa Brewing Co. Pagosa Brewing has been around 7-plus years, and we’re no stranger to their award-winning beers. Last year we made our one and only Pagosa stop here and fell in love with their amazing (and ever-changing) lineup of brews. Pagosa Brewing Head Brewer Tony Simmons is a professional beer judge and talented brewer, and Pagosa has won over 70 awards for their beers as evident by the awards lining the walls of their quaint tasting room. Here Jeff had a pint of the Powder Day IPA, a piney, bready, refreshing IPA. I couldn’t decide on a pint so I had tasters of three very different, eclectic brews. First was the Grog, a rum barrel-aged brown was a little sweet, slightly spicy, and had just the right amount of rum and oak flavor to make it interesting without being overpowering. Next was the ¡Holy Molé!, a Mayan-influenced brown that was wonderfully spiced, giving it a nice warm finish. Finally, I couldn’t leave without a sample of the Peachy Peach, a wheat infused with the aroma and flavor of juicy, delicious peaches. Yes, it was an odd assortment, but they were all incredible beers and I only regret I didn’t have time to try more.

During our 2013 visit to Pagosa Brewing Company there was an amazing outdoor beer garden patio, complete with hop-covered trellises and a stage for a live band. This year things looked quite a bit different. They relocated the outdoor seating area and music stage pp front, and while several hop plants remained the had removed the trellises that held them last year. These changes were made for good reason: they’re clearing space in preparation for some future expansion. It’s a long overdue change for popular brewery, which has ample outdoor seating but only a tiny indoor tasting room. Finding a seat inside isn’t easy, especially during peak times. In addition to the expansion, they’ll be moving their kitchen in the building and out of the airstream trailer where it resides today. Our bartender assured us that despite all the changes, Pagosa Brewing will still have the same incredible lineup of great beers and fresh food, and we have no doubt they’ll only be better after expanding their space. It’s all very exciting and we can’t wait to visit again once the changes are complete.

Finally, our last stop in Pagosa Springs was at Wolfe Brewing Company. Wolfe is the newest brewery on the scene in Pagosa Springs after opening earlier this year. We actually weren’t even aware they were open until we drove by – so it was a happy (hoppy) accident that we stumbled across them.  Wolfe Brewing has a much smaller beer lineup than the other two breweries, but they were still packed. They seem to have found their niche by being a bar that brews beer – not just a brewery. They’re just a bit divey, but in a good way! It’s the kind of place where peanut shells are strewn across the floor, regulars line up to play pool, and people show up ready to let loose and have a good time. The decor is a random mixture of beer memorabilia, deer heads and western artifacts, but somehow it all works. We had two of their beers, the Yippie-Ki-Yay IPA and Taxi Dog Amber Ale, along with some garlic knots and pizza for dinner. Both of the beers were decent, unfiltered and pretty true to style. The Amber was caramely and malty, while the English style IPA was well malted but still resiny and bitter. The food was also good, though fairly unremarkable. While they didn’t quite offer the same food or beer variety as the other two local breweries, the atmosphere at Wolfe Brewing was fun, and best of all, they offered us these amazing sunset views:

Overall, all three breweries of Pagosa Springs are doing good things, and they’re all great in their own ways. While we still prefer Pagosa Brewing for their amazing and always incredible beer selection, we were really impressed by the beers at Riff Raff Brewing, and we look forward to the chance to visit Wolfe Brewing again and party on their patio. Maybe next summer we’ll stick around Pagosa Springs longer, so we can take in some outdoor activities, soak in their therapeutic hot springs, and enjoy more of their breweries. Even if we just end up passing through again, we’ll be sure to stop for a beer or two.

Cheers!