The best part of writing this column is that it often requires a healthy river of beer flowing right down my gullet. Well, some would say it’s an unhealthy river but what do they know? They’re just doctors. Anyhow, this week, I decided to visit every brewery in Durango to find the best winter beers Durango has to offer.
2016 Big Grizz Barleywine, Carver Brewing Co.It wouldn’t be winter without a big, chewy barleywine. Carver just released this brew they’ve been cellaring since last year and the aging process has been kind to it. It has dried, dark fruits on the nose like raisins and dates with a hint of port. The dried fruit flavors wash over the palate on the first taste and are joined by sweet molasses. This is one of the best examples of the style I’ve ever had and I plan to indulge frequently until it’s gone.
Euphoria, Ska BrewingA winter staple in Durango, Euphoria is a pale ale that stands apart from the crowd. It has a bit more body than most examples of the style and its cereal-like sweetness balances perfectly with the tangerine and grapefruit notes from the hops. A big plus with this beer: Unlike most of the others on this list, you can have a few of them without calling an Uber.
Rye Can’t IBU, BREW Pub & KitchenI’d never tried this style before and I have a feeling that BREW invented it because online searches yielded no other examples. It is a black imperial rye pale lager. Say that three times fast, I dare you. The herby hops and the rye really come through on the nose. The first taste had notes of pumpernickel with a bitter, citrusy hop note that reminded me of orange peel. It finishes dry (like a good lager should) with lingering espresso bitterness.
Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Durango Brewing Co.This new offering from Durango Brewing will kick you right in the teeth in the best way possible. It starts out sweet with strong toffee notes and a hint of brandy. Then, its generous hop profile cuts through, finishing dry with a light coffee taste. The label says “Pairs best with cold nights and good friends” and I could not agree more. At a staggering 10 percent alcohol by volume, this gem will definitely warm you from the inside and if you bring it to a party, you’ll make new friends quickly.
Spruce Goose, Steamworks Brewing Co.Spruce Goose is one of the more unique winter beers that you can find in Durango. It quite literally tastes like trees because it’s made with handpicked spruce tips from the San Juan National Forest. Before you raise a skeptical eyebrow, let me assure you that the spruce aroma and flavor is outstanding. The candy sweetness backs up the spruce character to create a rare winter treat.
Bockcountry Lager, Animas Brewing Co.This lager had an impressive color like a ruby held up to a light. It had aromas of toasted malt and hard candy. The candy-sweetness was the first thing I noticed when I tasted it. There was no detectable hop character, which is perfect for this style of Bock and it finished with an enjoyable, abiding sweetness. This beer went down way too fast and I had to order another within 10 minutes of receiving the first.
Sean Moriarty has been drinking craft beer since before he was legally allowed to. He managed and bartended at Steamworks Brewing Co. from 2007-2017 and currently manages their digital marketing.