If you tried to buy beer or alcohol in April in Durango, there’s a pretty good chance the store wouldn’t let you come inside. Instead, they met you at the door and asked for your shopping list. If you’re like us, this cramps your non-quarantine style of wandering the store and staring at the contents of the refrigeration units for entirely too long before finally making a selection.
Between the need to, at the very least, spend a minimal amount of time browsing liquor store selection — along with the fact that American Craft Beer Week is coming up May 11 through 17 — we thought it’d be a good idea to ask representatives of a few local liquor stores what’s new in their inventories and what they recommend.
Almost universally, they emphasized buying local beers — which makes sense. We’re all in this together, and every dollar you spend on local brews stays in the community. To this end, we have to mention that Ska Brewing Co’s Aggrolite Lo-Cal IPA came out during the pandemic and is available pretty much everywhere in town.
That said, we totally forgive you if you want to find something from outside Durango. Variety is the spice of life, and there’s precious little of it going around these days. As such:
• At the top of our personal radar is Pliny the Elder, an IPA from Russian River Brewing of Santa Rosa, California, which is coveted and hard to find because it’s amazing. The brewery opened a new production facility in Windsor, California, recently, which is why you can find it at both Wagon Wheel Liquors and Star Liquors.
• Gin Mangan, one of the owners of Sixth Street Liquors, has several special beers in stock for Craft Beer Week.
New beers at the store include brews from Old Nation Brewing of Williamston, Michigan, and special releases from Untitled Art in Waunakee, Wisconsin — the identities of which will be a surprise even to Mangan when they hit the shelves. They’ll also have the summertime seasonal Peach Stand Rambler from Odell Brewing Co. out of Fort Collins and the Blooms & Blossoms witbier from 4 Noses Brewing Co. out of Broomfield, Colorado. Another summer-like offering is Rita, a margarita-esque beer from Albuquerque’s Marble Brewing Co.
Rounding out the list are the Deadhead series of IPAs from Distihl Brewery in Normal, Illinois, and Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewing Co.’s Supreme Hypster Beast Mode pale ale. Mangan also says the store keeps a number of beers in its back room, so curious customers should ask about them.
“People aren’t going to be able to go to beer festivals, ... so we really try our hardest to make sure we have some fun stuff in stock,” she said.
• At Wagon Wheel Liquor, Shea Conrad says two of the most popular IPAs at the store right now are 4 Noses’ ’Bout Damn Time and the Starburst IPA from Ecliptic Brewing in Portland, Oregon. There are also IPAs from Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing Co. and a brew from Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. of Decorah, Iowa.
More locally, they have a range of beers from Denver’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project (which used to specialize in sour beers, but has been diversifying) and Boulder’s Avery Brewing Co. From Albuquerque comes La Cumbre Brewing Co.’s hop-heavy Project Dank.
Carrying a variety of craft beers is largely how Colorado liquor stores are able to compete with grocery stores, which gained the ability to sell beer in 2019, Conrad said. It’s also worth mentioning that Wagon Wheel has an app you can use to browse its inventory and order stuff in advance.
• Thomas Lee, the self-described beer nerd at Star Liquors, is excited to have Melvin Brewing Co.’s beers from Alpine, Wyoming, but also says that Toppling Goliath’s Pseudo Sue is one of his favorite beers right now. They’ve also got Lunch, an IPA from Maine Beer Co. of Freeport, Maine, that ranks very highly among fans of the style. Also from New England are brews from Two Roads Brewing Co. and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, both of Stratford, Connecticut, the latter of which is one of the originators of the hazy IPA style with its Sunshine series.
If, on the other hand, you’re reluctant to give up dark beers as the temperature rises, Lee recommends Left Hand Brewing’s Nitro Stout, which he describes as better and more drinkable than Guinness.
• Last but not least, Ed Moreno of Durango Liquor says his store’s inventory currently features seasonal beers including Sierra Nevada’s (Chico, California) Wild Little Thing Slightly Sour Ale with guava, hibiscus, and strawberry; Stone Brewing Co.’s (Escondido , California) Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager; Odell Brewing Co.’s Tree Shaker Imperial Mango IPA; and 21st Amendment Brewery’s (San Francisco) Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer.
The store also has two variety packs he’s excited about. Out of Eugene, Oregon, Ninkasi Brewing Co.’s G.O.A.T. Pack has the brewery’s Juicy Domination Tropical IPA, Total Domination Northwest IPA, Prismatic Juicy IPA, and Tricerahops Double IPA. From New Belgium Brewing Co. out of Fort Collins and Cervecería Proxima of Mexico City comes the Mural variety pack, featuring four each of their Mango Orange, Watermelon Lime, and Berry Guava Agua Fresca Cervezas.
• If you don’t drink beer but enjoy hard seltzers (Lee calls them “party waters”), you can find Ska’s all over the place, and also Oskar Blues Brewery of Longmont’s Wild Basin brand.