black and white photo of brewing tanks
photography j. stewart photo CO ©
Tasty Brew typography
by amy puchaty and erin spillane
Colorado is to craft beer what mountains are to snow. And with over 400 craft breweries across the state, Colorado is the apex of ales – and lagers and stouts – with a heritage as rich as the gold rush. In fact, in 1859, Rocky Mountain Brewing became the first in the state to satiate thirsty miners from Silver Plume to Idaho Springs to Denver and beyond. Today, Colorado touts the fourth most breweries per capita in the United States, and has played host to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) since 1982, a competition that is the gold standard for brewing success in the U.S. What is it that makes Colorado’s breweries so special? Take to the mountains to find out.
Tom and Emily Caldwell and their family at Big Trout Brewing Co
photography j. stewart photo CO ©
Big Trout Brewing Co. at Copper Creek Square: 50 Vasquez Road
Winter Park typography
Family, fishing and great beers are key at Big Trout Brewing Company, a newly opened brewpub in Winter Park, with the name reflecting the priorities of owners Tom and Emily Caldwell. “The name of the brewery is special to us,” says Emily Caldwell. “Both of us love to fish and our kids really enjoy it too. Naming a brewery is a huge task. [One day], Tom was walking into daycare with our daughter, Madison, and asked her what she thought of Trout Brewery. She looked up and said, ‘No, Daddy, big trout!’ It was perfect, and there was no looking back.”
high-efficiency brewery
The Next Level
Even before the naming of their new enterprise, Tom Caldwell had been brewing professionally for nearly a decade before he and Emily decided it was time, says Emily Caldwell, “to take it to the next level. We’ve been members of this community since 2006 and seeing the town grow so much, we wanted to be a part of that growth.”

So, the pair got to work, first investing in a high-efficiency brewhouse that helps reduce water waste by up to 30 percent, Emily Caldwell explains. “It also allows us to use less grain for each brew due to its extremely high extraction rates. This brewhouse represents our vision of reducing our brewery’s environmental footprint while also crafting delicious beers.”

She adds that the brewpub was “built by the community”, using local builders, family and friends. “The walls were framed by Tom, his dad and his uncles, all the painting was done by my dad and us, even the kids helped. The tables were made by Tom and a good friend, another friend helped cut, shape and install the bar, while another friend did the custom design on the front of the bar and behind the taps. There was a lot of love that went into building this place and we feel like that vibe shines through when you walk in the door.”

Family + Community
Big Trout Brewing Company is located in Cooper Creek Square, adjacent to the new transit center, making it centrally located and easy for families. “We have made sure it is welcoming to all ages,” says Emily Caldwell. “We also have a great patio, with overhead heating for the winter and cooler evenings, a lovely fire pit out front and large garage doors for an open air feel in the warmer months.”

She also remarks that she and Tom have incorporated the community “as part of our business model”. As a result, the brewpub supports numerous local nonprofits and has a Teacher Appreciation Night. It also named one of its brews after a late local and donates 20 percent of sales of the brew to local causes. Says Emily, “We are proud to be a contributing force in this community and love the support we have seen.”

Best Brews typography
Alpine Lake IPA
Loaded with late hop additions and pounds of dry hops to give it lots of flavor, this IPA also has strong notes of grapefruit, passionfruit and hints of strawberry and cannabis.
Hickory Hill Raspberry Wheat
A light and refreshing beer brewed with honey malt that has a sweetness to balance well with the tart raspberry. The name is a tribute to Tom’s grandparents.
Mango Milkshake IPA
Brewed with lactose and massive amounts of Eldorado and Citra Hops, this IPA goes down smoothly with a delicious, tropical flavor.
Rick Stout
Named after late local ski instructor Rick Stone, this beer is loaded with dark chocolate malt, caramel malt, oats and lactose to give it a smooth rich flavor.
Food typography
At BTB it’s all about the beer — their Beer Cheese is made using Angler’s Amber, and their Red Stout Chili is made with the Rick Stout. The Soft Baked Pretzels are served with Beer Cheese, and they also serve Beer Cheese Curds and a Beer Cheese Steak.
Kudos typography
BTB opened its doors just under a year ago and its beers have already garnered a few local awards.

Best of Grand (Valley) Silver Best New Business

Best of Grand (Valley) bronze Best Brewery / Distillery

flight of beers on bar at Big Trout Brewing Co
Vail Brewing Co. beer list written in chalk
interior view of Vail Brewing Co. table and bar tops
photography vail brewing CO ©
Vail Brewing Co. at Eagle Vail Brewery & Tasting Room: 41290 U.S. Highway 6
Vail Valley typography
Veteran-and ski bum-owned since 2014, Vail Brewing Co. brews the type of beer its owners like to drink. With a handful of World Beer Cup (WBC), Great American Beer Festival and North American Brewers’ Association (NABA) awards under their belt, it’s safe to say the folks at VBC know a thing or two about brewing tasty, high-quality beer for locals and visitors.
we brew what we like to drink
Dreaming of Brews
“It was a dream of mine since college to start a brewery,” Head Brewer/Co-Owner, Garrett Scahill reveals. “After ski coaching for 13 years at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, and multiple jobs in the Vail Valley, I sat down to try to make that dream a reality. After writing the business plan over a winter, I set out to find partners/investors. A chance meeting resulted in a partnership with three like-minded military veterans, and VBC was born.”
One Epic Beer Line-up
What is the best brew on deck at Vail Brewing Co.? Scahill says, “It’s a toss-up between our three core beers, Hot Mess Blonde Ale, Gore Creek IPA, and Pete’s Stash Pale Ale. Both Gore Creek and Pete’s have won at the World Beer Cup and Pete’s also has a medal at the Great American Beer Fest. Pete’s Stash got its name from an out-of-bounds run off Vail Mountain named after one of the founders of Vail. It’s crisp, clean, slightly bitter with notes of grapefruit, tropical fruit, and pine.”

Vail Brewing Co. will be bringing back their Deck Daze wheat beer for most of the summer. A proven medal winner at GABF, Deck Daze is a delectable wheat beer infused with passionfruit and mango white tea. “From grain to glass, our staff works very hard to offer the best product and experience,” he says. “We love being able to offer many different styles of beer from different IPA’s to Porters and Sours. Our locations see so many people from all around the globe. Because of this, we want to be able to offer something for everyone.”

Two Locations + Taco Truck
“We have two locations. Eagle-Vail is the mothership and where you will find many valley locals, great outdoor seating, and Rocky Mountain Taco. Our Vail location is in the Solaris complex and offers indoor and outdoor seating next to a fire pit and a view of Vail Mountain. Both locations offer great late-day sun. I love seeing locals and tourists coming together to share a beer and experiences after a day of skiing, biking, work, or just playing outside,” Scahill says. Both locations offer a relaxing and comfortable environment with a mountain industrial edge. And as for the best sipping spot? Scahill says, “I like to sit by the fireplace in Eagle-Vail or the fire pit in Solaris when it’s snowing outside.”
Best Brews typography
Hot Mess Blonde Ale
A go-to light beer with a smooth, mild malt character paired with mellow citrus notes.
Gore Creek IPA
Not overly bitter and not too hazy, this staple IPA maintains a balance between malts and hops.
Pete’s Stash Pale Ale
A crisp, clean, slightly bitter ale with notes of grapefruit, tropical fruit and pine.
Deck Daze Wheat
A summer-only delectable wheat beer infused with passionfruit and mango white tea.
False Summit IPA
Hopped with Chinook, Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic. Slight haze, balanced bitterness. Notes of pine resin, berries, grapefruit and orange citrus.
Food typography
Try the Tacos, the Carnitas Torta or the Hippy Crack Burrito at the Rocky Mountain Taco truck at the brewing company’s Eagle-Vail location.
Kudos typography
GABF 2019 Bronze Medals
Deck Daze Wheat, Pete’s Stash Pale Ale

WBC 2018 Bronze Medals
Gore Creek IPA, Pete’s Stash Pale Ale

NABA 2018 Gold Medal
Deck Daze Wheat

NABA 2017 Bronze Medal
Tourist Trap IPA

Vail Brewing Co. beer cans served in glasses next to medals
Broken Compass Brewing Co. interior view of bar
photography ashley low ©
Broken Compass Brewing Co. at New Taproom: 520 S. Main Street
Breckenridge typography
If you find yourself in Breckenridge, be sure to pop into award-winning Broken Compass Brewing Company. As bartender, marketing manager, and resident Harry Potter expert, Daniel “Buckets” Miller-McLemore puts it, “It’s a place where everyone feels welcome, where strangers become friends, where you can actually unplug from the constant hum of everyday life and focus on the conversations right in front of you.”
exceptionally delicious beer
Their Own Little Brewery
“Broken Compass was founded in 2014 by Jason and Jolene Ford, two passionate beer lovers and brewers that had one goal: make delicious beer to drink and sell the rest so they could make more,” explains Miller-McLemore. After delving into the fabulous craft beer scene in Oregon during their time living in Portland, the Fords fell in love with the mountain town of Breckenridge while living in Denver. Jason (known to everyone simply as Ford) worked as a chemical engineer, which lent itself to the details of brewing. And after a few too many mundane meetings, the Fords decided to call it with Jason’s engineering career and set off on their dream of founding their own little brewery in the outdoor paradise of Breckenridge.
Crafted with Altitude, Brewed with Adventure
“Our home is in Breckenridge, Colo., and we can’t imagine a better place to make beer,” says Miller-McLemore. “On the brewing side of things, we have access to some of the finest quality water in the world, which contributes many positive characteristics to our beer. We’re surrounded by an amazing collaborative craft beer community in Summit County and Colorado.”

He adds that Breckenridge is also paradise for those who love the great outdoors. “In the winter, world-class skiing is out your back door, with four other ski resorts within 45 minutes. In the summer, lose yourself in endless miles of hiking and biking trails, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and all the water sports you could want on Lake Dillon. All wrapped around a picturesque little town surrounded by beautiful mountains.”

Miller-McLemore emphasizes that “Breck” is unique. “It boasts the very best that mountain resort towns can offer in terms of recreating, but without all the posh vibes you get in so many others. The core of this is a true small downtown, not a resort village, made up of condos and rentals inhabited by tons of locals passionate about the outdoors and good beer.”

Has this translated into great customers? “We love our locals and regulars,” Miller-McLemore says. “Most of the folks who ended up in the mountains didn’t plan on it. They just stumbled their way here and fell in love with the beauty and adventure of the place and couldn’t bring themselves to leave. Their passion is inspiring and makes us want to make and serve beer good enough to cap off epic days skiing or pedaling miles of the Colorado Trail on a mountain bike.”

Laidback and Welcoming
Pre-pandemic, the brewery utilized large community-style tables where strangers frequently sat next to each other and became fast friends. “We pride ourself on our sense of community where everyone is welcome. Tourists and locals mingling together, finding common ground over a delicious brew. Even without bar seating and our community tables, we still pride ourselves on creating that same vibe for every customer who walks through the door. The beer, the vibe, and the setting – it’s not everywhere that you can drink awesome, award-winning beer with a bunch of your friends (or new friends) at the foot of snow-capped mountains.” Don’t miss BCB’s Oktoberfest-style party, called LostOberfest, in the fall with German beer releases, stein-holding contests and live music.
Best Brews typography
Coconut Porter
Lightly toasted unsweetened, organic coconut is added to a porter base, creating a delectable brew that bursts with aromas of coconut and undertones of roasted malts, coffee and chocolate.
Chili Pepper Pale Ale
Five peppers – habaneros, jalapenos, serranos, poblanos and Anaheim – give this beer a huge flavor and aroma of sweet and spicy pepper with just a tickle of heat.
Slope Sipper Kolsch
Cold fermented and brewed with Noble Saaz hops and Motueka hops from New Zealand.
Mango Passionfruit Sour
Tropical sour with a medium tartness and a delicious barrage of tropical fruit and light malt.
Irish Red
Malty, caramel, sweet deliciousness with a light refreshing touch and deep ruby color.
Food typography
BCB rotates a number of delicious food trucks, including Graze & Torreys food stand and Gyros Delish Mediterranean.
Kudos typography
GABF 2016 Silver Medal
Ginger Pale Ale

GABF 2015 Bronze Medal
Coconut Porter

Locally, BCB has won awards for Best Brewery, Best Beers on Tap, Best Bar, Best Après Ski, Best Bartender, Best Late Night Scene, Best Patio, Best Place to Work and many more.

Ginger Pale Ale can by Broken Compass
Irwin Brewing Co. exterior view with truck outside
photography irwin brewing CO ©
Irwin Brewing Co. at Public House Restaurant & Taproom: 202 Elk Avenue
Crested Butte typography
A Gunnison Valley staple, the Irwin Brewing Company is wildly popular and it isn’t hard to see why. Award-winning beers, a menu that emphasizes locally and sustainably grown pub grub and great ambiance, all conveniently located in picturesque Crested Butte — making it the perfect stop after a day of adventure on the mountain.
beer with a whimsical twist
Inspiring Surroundings, People
“Our brewery was dreamed up while we were doing what we locals like to do in Crested Butte–playing in the mountains and being outdoors,” says the company’s assets and development director, Steven Lewis. “Our brewery and beers are a celebration of Crested Butte’s personality and our rhythm of life.

“We work hard and we play hard,” he adds. “We love what we do and we love where we live. Irwin Brewing Company makes classic representations of your favorite beers with a whimsical twist. We are inspired by the mountains, lakes, and rivers that surround us here in Crested Butte, Colorado.”

Crested Butte is an outdoor mecca, with over 750 miles of single-track and offering exceptional access to skiing, mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and fly fishing. This culture of being outside is a keystone aspect of the community.

Just as important as its surroundings is the community, Lewis says “The people here make this place special. Crested Butte is a small community that looks out for each other. We love to see familiar faces coming by the brewery for a growler fill and bellying up to the bar at the Public House for a draft. Our beers were made to be enjoyed after a long day of adventures in the mountains and we are proud to have earned a place in this quirky, active, and passionate community.”

The Buzz
The “celebration” of Crested Butte’s personality takes place in two locations: the brewery and the Public House, which includes a restaurant and tap room. Lewis describes the brewery, the brewing company’s production facility, as a great place to see where and how the beer is brewed and also to pick up a keg, growlers and merch.

The Public House, he adds, is “our vision of a modern Colorado saloon. We have 14 tap handles and we have fun with our seasonal drafts and limited releases. We pride ourselves on sourcing locally as much as possible. We utilize area farms for our food menu.” At the Public House, you’ll enjoy unique food and beverage pairings too. A few of their favorite combinations include: the elk meatloaf or chili with Amber’s Lager — the subtle sweetness of the lager brings out the flavor of the elk; the Poutine and the Belgian-style Grisette is a match made in heaven. “Let’s face it, poutine pairs well with beer of all types, but this combo is hard to beat,” says Lewis.

IB is also looking forward to bringing live music back to the Public House soon. “There is nothing like the combination of live music, local food, and craft beer,” says Lewis.

We Love Where We Live
Irwin Brewing Company compliments this love of a good time with that love of community mentioned earlier by Lewis, with the company supporting a wide variety of local organizations and events, including the Center for the Arts Crested Butte, Crested Butte Arts Festival, Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, High Country Conservation Advocates, the Crested Butte Ski Patrol and the Crested Butte Film Festival.

Says Lewis, “We love what we do and we love where we live.”

Best Brews typography
Mexican Lager
A blond, light bodied lager with a clean and crisp finish. Distinctive corn notes leave a cracker flavor in this thirst quenching and drinkable beer.
Amber’s Lager
An award-winning, amber-colored lager with a delicate yet flavorful malty backbone making for a crisp, easy-drinking beer.
Hazy IPA
Just in time for summer is this hop-saturated IPA brewed to accentuate tropical fruit flavors and subtle notes of pine. Soft, rounded, and less bitter on the palate than a typical IPA.
This summer, IB will be making a seasonal strawberry-lime margarita sour draft in collaboration with Jagged Mountain Brewery.
Food typography
IB’s vision of a modern saloon, the Public House is located right on Crested Butte’s main street. Favorites include Elk Chili, Parker Pastures Burgers, Fish & Chips, Elk Meatloaf and Veggie Pot Pie. A quintessential pub snack, the Poutine is covered in cheese curds and a gravy made with Irwin Brewing Company beer.
Kudos typography
GABF 2020 Gold Medal
Amber’s Lager

Crested Butte 2017 Chili Beer Festival
Best Stout

Keystone 2017 Bluegrass & Beer Festival
Best Brewery

Irwin Brewing Co. beers in keg
Telluride Brewing Co. interior and exterior views of people drinking and visiting
Telluride Brewing Co. at Lawson Hill Taproom & Brewery: 156 Society Drive
Telluride typography
Telluride Brewing Company offers a variety of award-winning beers that range from easy-drinking to more complex brews that can be enjoyed at its no-frills taproom west of town, or paired with trendy tacos at its new location smack dab in the middle of Heritage Plaza in Mountain Village.
the quest for the perfect beer
The Ultimate Dream
LIV Sotheby’s International Realty broker Brian Gavin moonlights as chief operations officer at Telluride Brewing Company and recalls an origin story that is pretty much Telluride in a nutshell: “Founders Chris Fish and Tommy Thacher’s story began writing itself when the pair met at a local bar. Fish was the brewmaster, and Tommy the bartender. Hours together were spent discussing their quest for the perfect beer and the ultimate dream — opening a brewery of their own. As time passed, Fish’s beer began attracting attention, winning gold and bronze medals at the Great American Beer Festival and developing its own following throughout the state, while Tommy changed his trajectory and became a middle school history teacher. Still adventuring together, conquering rivers and mountains, the pair continued the conversation regarding their quest for the perfect beer.”
Gold Medal Brew
A decade later, in 2011, Fish and Thacher made their dream a reality, partnering with Gavin and local graphic artist John Lehman to form the Telluride Brewing Company. Since then, the company, a locals’ favorite, has scooped national and international awards for its brews, the most prominent of which are Face Down Brown Ale and Whacked Out Wheat. Beautiful and refreshing, the two beers have won countless awards, including gold medals for Face Down Brown at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival and medals for Whacked Out Wheat at both competitions, too.

TBC fans will be especially interested to learn that the guys are bringing back some other old favorites: Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale, the brewery’s first ever brewed and canned beer, and Face Down Bourbon Brown, a bourbon barrel-aged American-style brown. Also in the works is the next in the brewing company’s series of hop terpene beers, Galloping Juice 9.

Gavin remarks that the guys have kept it cool all these years by brewing “bad ass” beers using Rocky Mountain snow-melt, premium malts and high-quality hops. For years, those beers have been enjoyed in the TBC’s pared down taproom adjacent to the brewery in the growing Lawson Hill neighborhood. “Our brewery/taproom is located in Lawson Hill, a small community located between Telluride and Mountain Village. The development there has allowed us to expand greatly since we opened and has really turned us into a local watering hole. We’re so grateful to host so many locals there each day while we share beers and swap stories about the day’s adventures.”

Moving On Up
In 2020, TBC opened a taqueria, in partnership with Los Buenos Tacos, and brewpub in the Franz Klammer breezeway, just steps from the famed “Beach” at the base of the Telluride Ski Resort. Says Gavin of the new venture, “We’ve been able to reach a whole new group of people in this location, given its close proximity to the ski resort, hotels, vacation rentals and the Gondola. We’re so thankful for the warm reception we’ve received from the community and the great response to the delicious tacos that Los Buenos has been serving up. We’re really looking forward to summer in this location with the ski resort’s bike park, the new Canopy Adventure tours and the nearby Mountain Village Farmers’ Market attracting a whole new group of people.”

Warm and welcoming, the new location was a hit this winter. “Whether it’s a chile relleno, ceviche, or any one of our authentic, street tacos, we’ve had a great response to our entire menu,” Gavin says. “We decided to keep our seasonal Mexican Lager on tap year round, with its light, crisp finish and low ABV perfectly complementing the entire menu of authentic, street tacos.”

Best Brews typography
Face Down Brown
A beautiful hybrid of an English and American Brown Ale that explodes with aromas of toffee, chocolate, and nut balanced hop forward with German Noble and big American aroma hops.
Whacked Out Wheat
An easy drinking American style wheat that is light, crisp, and extremely refreshing.
There Gose the Snow
Perfect for summer, a Leipzig-style Gose with hibiscus, grapefruit, pink guava & pomegranate.
Move Me Brightly
A Colorado-style IPAß with citra and mosaic hop terpenes.
Beaver Pond Blonde
Belgian-style blond ale with lemongrass.
Food typography
TBC’s new location in Mountain Village Center is home to the taqueria, Los Buenos Tacos. TBC’s Mexican Lager perfectly complements the Chile Rellenos, Ceviche, and the entire menu of authentic Street Tacos.
Kudos typography
World Beer Cup 2012 Gold Medal
GABF 2012 & 2014 Gold Medal
GABF 2016 Bronze Medal
Face Down Brown

GABF 2015 Silver Medal
World Beer Cup 2016 & 2018 Silver Medal
Whacked Out Wheat

Telluride Brewing Co. flight of beers on bar top