Forget wine country – it’s all about the booze in three of Colorado’s most beloved mountain towns.
Undoubtedly, the Centennial State knows how to do a few things right. From killer ski resorts to unparalleled good-timey vibes bound to slap you in the face harder than that fresh mountain air, Colorado’s welcome sign reads “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” for good reason.
Thanks to much more than just the legalization of weed, that Rocky Mountain High is more alive now than ever. Maybe it’s the altitude that’s got everyone feeling loose, or perhaps it’s the wide array of award-winning craft breweries, distilleries, and the like. Whatever the case may be, blaming it on the booze has never felt better. From one (totally unbiased) mountain girl to another, here’s the inside beta on the best libations Colorado has to offer.
Lloyd Christmas sure did get it right when he described this famous ski town to his pal, Harry. “A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aaasssssssspen.” Despite the common belief Aspen’s all about the glam and glitz, there’s far more to it than just offering a lifestyle akin to that of the rich and famous. If you’re going to Aspen, you’ll want to hang your hat at The Gant. A perfect location to serve as your launching pad to everything town has to offer, The Gant offers luxury accommodations in the form of well-equipped condos.
Where To Imbibe:
Aspen Brewing Co. – Head to the Aspen Brewing Co. for a flight with the locals. This upper-level joint puts the irony in your typical dive bar. You beers will be delivered with a side of reggae, and a bit of ski bum attitude (in a good way). No food, few rules, and definitely no complaining make this spot the perfect post-adventure, pre-dinner spot.
Marble Distilling Co. – A short drive from Aspen, Marble Distilling Co. is located is Carbondale, and welcomes guests to the contemporary tasting room with a smile. An ideal ending point after a long bike ride, this distillery is all about green initiatives and sustainability. The owners are proud Colorado adventurers, eager to share their take on what makes for a great cocktail experience. And the Moonlight Expresso is a must.
Woody Creek Distillery – Don’t leave the area before dropping into Woody Creek Distillery, either. This beautiful distillery is the real deal. Not only is the staff friendly (and fun), but their enthusiasm for what they’re selling is driven by genuine passion, rather than a sales incentive. And for good reason – the homegrown brand takes “buying local” to new heights: Their potato vodka is made with locally grown potatoes the workers harvest themselves.
You’ve heard of Vail. You know about the ski resort. The real unsung hero of the area, though, is the wide array of tasting rooms scattered across the region. A stay at the Manor Vail Lodge guarantees a comfortable spot with all the outdoorsy perks just steps away. A straight shot from Denver via I-70, Vail’s your next stop for beer and spirits galore.
Where To Imbibe:
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company – Located steps from your door at the Manor Vail Lodge, the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company’s tasting room is the perfect in-town spot for happy hour cocktails. Home to a storied history, 10th Mountain houses a small, cozy bar area in the front, and a mid-sized, open area in the back, complete with community high-top tables. The drinks are nothing short of a swift kick to the back of your throat, especially the moonshine.
Bonfire Brewing – The tasting room at Bonfire Brewing is the essence of authenticity, with a rustic feel and local flare to boot. Located in Eagle, Colo., the folks at Bonfire know a thing or two about delivering the goods without sacrificing true mountain town culture. The small, dimly lit space holds a dark bar, a storied collection of artifacts, and a long list of eclectic beers. A popcorn machine in the corner serves as the finishing touch at this old-school joint.
Vail Brewing Co. – Despite its right-off-the-highway location, Vail Brewing Co. is well worth the visit. The ambiance is nothing short of a laid-back house party, with a warm fireplace, games, and Christmas lights strung about. This place is set up for groups of friends looking to blow off a little steam, so don’t shy away from turning the open seating into a place of your own. And oh, do NOT leave before grabbing a taco from The Rocky Mountain Taco food truck right outside the front door.
Tricky to get to? Maybe. Impossible to leave? Definitely. Home to a community unlike any other in the world, Telluride sits at the base of picturesque mountains that welcome visitors and locals alike year round with open arms. Telluride’s famous box canyon is nothing short of magnificent, and an unmatched zest for easy-living will turn even the most skeptical of cynics into blue-sky believers. If you fancy an upscale experience, be sure to check out Telluride’s newest lodging option, Dunton Town House.
Where To Imbibe:
Telluride Brewing Co. – The local favorite, Telluride Brewing Co. is a definite must. Tasty brews, weekend block parties, and friendly bartenders all contribute to the wacky, good-timey feels of this pipe-dream-turned-ski-town-reality.
Telluride Distilling Company – Just a stone’s throw from the brewery, Telluride Distilling Company puts the customization into the cocktail. A small, locally-operated business, the distillery invites visitors in for a taste, and keeps them there with the laid-back ambiance. The vodka will get you feeling right, and if you ask the bartender, you may even score a custom cocktail creation of your own.
The Sheridan Parlor Bar – Located smack in the heart of downtown, the Parlor Bar is every gal’s go-to spot. Cozy up at a window table, and sit back, relax, and take in the historic building’s famous charm. And what you need to order? A Flatliner. A bit of a signature cocktail in these parts, a Telluride Flatliner will loosen you up, so you’re free to get down. No questions asked.
Julie Peirano is a writer and adventurer based in Telluride, CO.