We're going to skip ahead a bit and start with a liquor store run at the end of the day. Checking out, the clerk asked us what we were doing in town. "Beer" was of course our answer. His answer was that we should definitely get up to Denver to check out places up there. That a) surprised me and b) made me a little sad. Coming from areas (Portland now and the Twin Cities previously) that tended to be very proud of the beer being produced in their area I expected a suggestion for a bar or brewery in town. Yes, I understand that Colorado Springs is not far from Denver and there are more (and possibly better) options in Denver but really?
Reflecting on the three places we'd visited I have to admit that he might not have been entirely off the mark. Two of the three places weren't remarkable. The first, Rockyard American Grill & Brewing Company, is actually about halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs and a place we had visited 10 years ago. Back then, according to my notes, we'd really enjoyed their IPA and found their beers in general to be aggressively hopped. My palate has changed since then, and possibly their recipes, too, however I wasn't overly impressed with the Hopyard IPA. The Lightning Strike Stout on the other hand turned out to be a nice, well-balanced stout and the Redhawk Ale a less malty version of a red than many. One thing that hadn't changed was the fire roasted salsa; it was as good as I remembered.
Our second stop took us to Colorado Mountain Brewery. They have two locations and we visited the northern one, which sits opposite the Air Force Academy. Just as at Rockyard, we took advantage of the mild afternoon and sat out on the patio (of which this CMB has two). The beer list here was smaller and offered your standard line up - blonde, hefe, amber, IPA and stout - along with one seasonal brew, which turned out to be a ginger beer. None of them were outstanding although the ginger fell into the "just right" category of enough ginger flavor to enjoy it but not too much to be overpowering. Better than the beer was chatting with a local (who had the cutest four month old weiner dog-Chihuahua puppy), who told us that we should check out Pikes Peak Brewing, just a couple of exits north of CMB.
Taking her advice we declined a second round, hopped into the car and upon arriving at Pikes Peak knew even before we'd tasted the beer that this place was going to be the best so far. It is situated in the end unit of a short strip mall but once you enter the doors, that is wiped from your memory. In addition to the main taproom area, there's a second barrel room space that is big enough to host a brewer's dinner as well as an outdoor patio. The place was buzzing and had the feel of a place that people who enjoy good beer go to. As for the beer itself, I found their Elephant Rock IPA to be more malty than I like my IPAs to be but there wasn't a blonde or an amber to be found on the list and overall we agreed that they were turning out pretty good product.
|Sign on the patio door at Pikes Peak Brewing|
Deciding to end our day's adventures on a high note we proceeded to the hotel, hit the previously mentioned liquor store and then settled in for pizza and beer. A nice, tame ending to the first day of what will likely be a fun marathon of drinking in Colorado Springs.