Best known as home to North America’s most popular ski resort, Breckenridge also boasts a wealth of craft brewers, restaurants and watering holes—plus Colorado’s largest historic district in its quaint, Victorian-era downtown.
by Sarah L. Stewart
When ski bum Richard Squire opened Breckenridge Brewery (Downtown, breckenridgebrewery.com) in 1990, it was one of just three craft breweries in a state that would soon become the epicenter of the craft movement. Today, the 60,000-barrel-per-year operation distributes to 32 states and is headquartered in Denver, but the original two-story Main Street brewpub with sweeping views of the Tenmile Range still serves favorites like best-selling amber Avalanche Ale and nutty, 6.7%-ABV seasonal Autumn Ale. Next to join the party was Backcountry Brewery (Frisco, backcountrybrewery.com), which since its founding in 1996 has earned multiple GABF honors for brews such as gold medal-winning Telemark IPA, a copper-hued pale ale with a peachy finish, and smooth, European-style silver medalist Ptarmigan Pilsner. Despite its
sprawling 260-seat capacity, nearby Dillon Dam Brewery (Dillon, dambrewery.com) often has a waitlist, thanks in part to its own highly decorated pints like malty McLuhr’s Irish Stout—made extra creamy with a nitro tap—and caramel-colored English-style ale Sweet George’s Brown. Tour the 2,000-barrel facility and choose from ale-infused entrees like Sweet Brown bratwurst and a beer-braised barbecue pork sandwich. Named for the infamous criminal who held up Breckenridge’s Denver Hotel in 1898 during the town’s rough-and-tumble gold mining days, Pug Ryan’s Steakhouse Brewery (Dillon, pugryans.com) has earned fame of a different kind for its noble-hopped Pallavicini Pilsner, citrusy Morning Wood Wheat and scenic location on the Lake Dillon shoreline.
Opened in 1879 as the Herman Strauss Saloon, The Gold Pan Saloon (Downtown, thegoldpansaloon.com) is the oldest continuously operating bar west of the Mississippi—and judging by its swinging doors, weathered mahogany bar and crusty-looking regulars, it doesn’t seem to have changed much. Grab a $2 pint of Coors Light here to say you did. Blue River Bistro (Downtown, blueriverbistro.com) offers a distinctly more modern vibe, with creative cocktails like a strawberry-basil martini and a cherry-infused Manhattan featuring Colorado rye whiskey, plus a rotating Backcountry Brewery tap. The bulk of the town’s after-dark action happens on South Main Street, where both visitors and the local contingent of snowboarder bros flock to a handful of nightspots. Perhaps the town’s only true nightclub, Cecilia’s (Downtown, cecilias.tv) provides thumping DJ beats, a selection of New Belgium drafts including Fat Tire and Ranger IPA, and—in an unexpected throwback to its cigar bar roots—a humidor and dizzying array of single-malt scotches. Upstairs, Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub (Downtown, burkeandrileyspub.com) serves the usual suspects, with Guinness, Smithwick’s and Harp on draft. Margaritas and booze-soaking late-night Mexican take center stage at colorful Lucha (Downtown, luchacantina.com), next door to Cecilia’s, and tiki-themed Rita’s (Downtown, ritas.users42.edigita.com) in the basement beneath Kenosha Steakhouse.
Though Breckenridge has its share of typical (read: overpriced) ski-town restaurants, a great meal here doesn’t have to cut into your beer budget. Kenosha Steakhouse (Downtown, kenoshasteakhouse.com) pairs its 19 drafts with crave-worthy house-smoked barbecue ribs, satisfying salads and some of the best mountain views in town from its back patio. From-scratch comfort food like fried sweet corn nuggets, homemade mac ’n cheese and make-your-own s’mores earn top billing at The Motherloaded Tavern (Downtown, motherloadedtavern.com), a high-ceilinged hotspot decorated in endearingly gaudy Americana. Late night, the back bar overflows with locals. On the same block, cozy Clint’s Bakery & Coffee House (Downtown, 970.453.2990) answers the call at breakfast and lunch with fluffy bagels, homemade sandwiches and expertly baked cookies, muffins and cakes—no small feat at the town’s 9,600-foot elevation. Chic is in short supply in Breck, which adheres devoutly to its “mountain casual” (i.e., jeans and ski pants welcome anywhere) dress code, but a few establishments do lean upscale. At South Ridge Seafood Grill (Downtown, southridgeseafoodgrill.com), standouts like a cheddar-topped American Kobe burger and house-smoked trout dip shine in a comfortable-yet-classy dining room. Contemporary American fare at Modis (Downtown, modisbreck.com), an urban-inspired eatery in a beautifully restored Victorian on Main Street, includes memorable dishes like saffron-spiced curry bouillabaisse.
Though many hotels close during the Breckenridge off-season, the ones that remain open offer rock-bottom rates. Perched a five-minute drive above the town center, The Lodge and Spa at Breckenridge (Boreas Pass, thelodgeandspaatbreck.com) affords stellar views of downtown and the ski area. Less solitude—but better access to late-night shenanigans—awaits at The Village at Breckenridge (Downtown, breckresorts.com/village-at-breckenridge), an easy walk to all the downtown restaurants and bars; same goes for the luxe Mountain Thunder Lodge (Downtown, breckresorts.com/mountain-thunder-lodge). •