Get a taste of Southwest Colorado’s crafted beverages.
Towering vines of hops. Luscious, tender grapes. Perfectly crisp apples. Cold, fresh Rocky Mountain water. Southwest Colorado has all the right ingredients for craft beverage makers, and visitors can drink it all in and get a taste of what makes this region unique. The Durango Area Tourism Office is celebrating these artisans with a mapped tour that showcases all the hot spots where you can grab a cold drink. Here are some of the highlights:
Hop to It
There has been something of a boom over the past decade or so in the hops industry in the southwest part of the state. Select varieties of the plants thrive in the sunny, temperate climate and high altitude environment. Hops grow wild here—you will find them climbing up warm canyon walls and creeping up the side of historic houses in some of the towns. Hops have also become a favorite of the local agricultural scene. Not only is it a natural match for the growing conditions, it’s also a perfect fit in a place where there are a multitude of craft breweries hoping to source their ingredients locally. Brewers use a technique called “hop bursting,” adding hops in the final stages of boiling to add intense hops flavor and aroma to an IPA beer. If you’re looking for a delicious IPA, try Ska Brewing’s Modus Hoperandi.
Fresh off the Vine
Napa Valley has nothing on McElmo Canyon. This gorgeous, red rock canyon is a mini oasis nestled between the mountains and the desert, just warm and wet enough to grow the most prized grape varietals. Some enterprising vintners have recognized the potential and are cultivating grapes and handcrafting fine wines. No beverage tour would be complete without a stop at one of the tasting rooms for the local wineries. Tip for tourists: Sutcliffe Vineyards is one of the most renowned winemakers in the country—they have multiple 90+ point reviews and have been named one of the top 500 wine producers in the United States. Try the 2014 Bodysgallen, a smooth Bordeaux.
Just outside of Dolores, there is a heritage orchard called the T Lazy T. Martha and Dusty Teal bought the abandoned farm and land and apple trees in 2010, nursing the orchard back to health until the trees were thriving and producing fruit again. They grow the heirloom apples, pick them by hand, press them, and ferment them slowly—for months—on site. The T Lazy T Orchard is the home of Teal Cider, and it’s the region’s only licensed craft cidery. There is a rustic barn that holds a tasting room for the boutique cider beverages.
Regional distilleries have a host of special local ingredients that give their spirits unique accents. The glacial Rocky Mountain water from the high mountains in the area provides the base, but distillers are also lucky to have locally grown barley and blue corn, and wild Juniper berries that flourish in the subalpine climate. The Honey House Distillery in Durango also sources their small-batch, handcrafted honey spirits from their own in-house Honeyville Widlflower Honey—straight from the bees to your bourbon glass. We recommend you sample the Colorado Honey Whiskey, a subtly sweet, slightly smoky blend of two premium aged bourbons.
Southwestern Colorado is also home to some handcrafted non-alcoholic beverages. Durango is the headquarters for Zuberfizz, a soda company that uses pure cane sugar to create small batches of creative carbonated drinks, with flavors like Vanilla Cream, Strawberry Rhubarb, and even Key Lime. The local brew pub, Carver Brewing Co., also makes a special root beer.
Check out the Durango Area Tourism Organization website at Durango.org, where you can download a map, find more than 30 independent producers of crafted beverages along the San Juan Skyway, and create a tasting itinerary. There are also hosted tours available to book. Bottoms up!