Pagosa Brewing Co. stands out as a place to find both beers with wild flavors and very good examples of traditional brews. As an example of the former, its Salty Caramel Stout — it tastes exactly like what it sounds like — occupies a space in my mind as a perfect dessert beer.
When we dropped by this time, as Pagosa began to reopen its restaurants and breweries for dine-in service, the brewery had conveniently organized all of their beers into four flights of four beers (with three extra unclassified ones). I chose Flight Two, featuring the Peachy Peach Wheat, Rodeo Rider Red Ale, Powder Day IPA, and Chili Verde Cerveza.
I didn’t find out until I looked them up online after the fact, but they’ve all won awards at various beer contests. Then again, so have many of Pagosa Brewing’s Beers. Brewmaster Tony Simmons is a professional beer judge and seems to know what he’s doing.
The Peachy Peach is true to its name, packing a lot of fruity peach flavor into each sip (while still being recognizable as, well...a beer). It surprised me by not being particularly sour at all, as many beers on the fruitier side of the spectrum are. It is on the sweet side, but not overwhelmingly so, and if you close your eyes, you can pretend the feeling of the carbonation in your mouth is peach fuzz. I’m typically reluctant to recommend fruit beers to puritans who demand their beer taste like nothing but beer, but I think even they might get a kick out of this.
I’m typically not the world’s biggest fan of IPAs, but even I can tell when they’re pulled off perfectly — which is what the brewery accomplished with the Powder Day IPA. The brew has an interesting hoppiness that unfolds across the tongue in the aftertaste. It had fresh-tasting notes of pine and especially citrus without being fruity beyond what the hops added.
The Chili Verde Cerveza, much like the Peachy Peach, is all about the fruit — after all, green chile is technically a fruit, isn’t it? At least locally, this style of beer invites a comparison to Steamworks Brewing Co.’s Prescribed Burn. While both beers taste of green chile, Pagosa’s brew better captures the taste of the plant when you ignore the spiciness. (Don’t worry; it still burns going down, just not as much as Steamworks’ chile beer.) Have you ever had green chile jelly? It has that sort of green chile flavor.
There’s not much I can say about the Rodeo Rider Red. It’s a perfectly malty, easy-to-drink version of an Irish red ale. It finishes very dry. I love red ales, and this one is great — it’s just hard to stand out among so many other winners.
Finally, alongside the beers, I got the brewery’s pub pretzels, which come with beer fondue cheese and beer mustard. The fondue cheese was cheesy, obviously, but you could also really taste the beer in it. I’m a fan. This is less true of the beer mustard, which has more of a yellow mustard taste than a brown mustard taste – it’d taste better on a hot dog than a bratwurst, I idly speculated as I masticated my pretzels. (Here’s a cheat code I discovered: Take a sip of the Chile Verde Cerveza and then immediately eat a cheese-laden bite of the pretzel. The result is an explosion of chile con queso in your mouth.)
The brewery was practicing social distancing rules and advertises the ability to reserve seats, but it’s worth noting that even with the extra spacing inside and out, they’ve got a ton of room available, and if you sit outside you can get a great view of the mountains.