It’s back – the lone soldier brewery on the north side of town. Durango Brewing Co. reopened July 1 with a renovated space and all new drink and menu options. Since last fall when the old Durango Brewing shuttered its doors, we’ve had only Zia and Homeslice serving drinks on North Main. All the other brewpubs are clustered downtown like cliquey high school girls. Thankfully, DBC wouldn’t stand for that. They’re actually Durango’s second oldest brewery, open since 1990. We spoke to India Downing, new general manager, about all the changes that have been made and what you can expect from them in the future.
How has Durango Brewery been improved for the reopening?The old DBC had kind of a bad reputation, though there’s also a lot of locals who loved this spot. But amidst all the other breweries, we really weren’t taken seriously. We had a lot of brewer turnover. The biggest change is the building: we have a brand new porch, revamped the floors, the kitchen was completely gutted and we got all new equipment. We went for the open kitchen concept, so you can see how things are being prepared and how fresh they are. And I like keeping the kitchen staff feeling like they’re a part of everything, instead of separate. Nate Watkins is our head brewer, he worked here a while ago and then came back, and he’s really put his finger on all the recipes, making sure everything is super consistent. They’ve upgraded a lot of the ingredients in the beer. Like in the Blueberry Wheat, which is everyone’s favorite. People freak out about it. It’s a seasonal in the summer, so it wasn’t out until this month. That beer used to be made without real blueberries, so we changed the recipe and now it’s made with actual fresh blueberries.
We also have new ownership, Gold Buckle Brewing. They purchased the company from the old owner Mark Harvey, and Mark is still a 10 percent owner. They took over all the operations and decision-making, and hired me just a month ago. We’ve had a lot of people watching and waiting for us to reopen, and we’re really trying to team up with all the north side businesses so we can breathe a little life into this end of town. I would say 90 percent of our staff also lives on the north side, so we definitely have that north side community feel as far as both staff and guests, which we love.
How has the beer selection changed?One of the things the brewers are excited about is now that we’re open, they can start to brew some small-batch, kind of experimental beers. They’re just getting started on that. Like trying some cask-aged beers. So definitely keep your eye out for lots of small stuff that you can try – but when it’s gone, it’s gone.
How are you distinctive from other brewery options in town?Our menu sets us apart. We’re focusing on fresh and local. It’s very small and simple, quality over quantity. And not that this is different from other breweries, but we want everyone here to obtain their cicerone certification. That’s similar to a sommelier for wine, but it’s specifically for craft beer. We’re going to make sure all of our staff is really well-versed in craft beer and can answer questions. We have very informed guests, so we want to make recommendations knowledgeably and comfortably.
What are your favorite items on the menu?The onion rings and charcuterie board. The onion rings are chopped in-house and the batter is made with one of our beers. It’s super simple but really yummy. We feature lots of local ranchers and farmers, and I’m proud of how fresh this stuff is.
Any events coming up?We’re starting Happy Hour this Friday, so that will be seven days a week from 2 to 5 p.m., $3 beers. We’re also starting a Comedy Night with Laugh Therapy, the same troupe who does a comedy night at the Irish Embassy once a month. It’s hilarious. That will be every Monday night starting August 1. And we have a lot of other ideas; I do want to do some live music. I’ll probably do an open audition and have bands all play a song for me. But I don’t necessarily want to do something that’s directly competing with our other friends in the industry.
Do you think breweries are competitive in this town?I think it’s a huge family. We’ve seen brewers from every brewery in town come in since we opened. As a whole, the craft beer industry is that way. Trying to further the industry takes all of us. We’d prefer a customer visiting Durango go to ALL the breweries!