There’s an image of apres-ski that’s equal parts champagne flutes, expensive fur vests and roaring fireplaces. Then there’s the version of apres-ski the rest of us live: flannel, cozy wood bars and our goggles still around our necks. And beer, of course. Fortunately, most Colorado ski towns are as awash in brews as they are in snow, making it easy to grab a pint after a day on the pristine slopes. Here are the breweries and beer bars to hit post-gondola ride.
It’s standing room only at Telluride Brewing’s taproom, located in a business park on the outskirts of town. Cozy up to new friends over a pint of Face Down Brown, the GABF gold medal-winning brown ale that put the brewery on the map. Hungry? Order in or head to Brown Dog Pizza, a local favorite for Detroit-style pies with 14 taps that might include rarities from Avery, Odell and Epic.
Not everything in Vail is over-the-top swanky: Vail Ale House is spacious and post-slope casual, with let-loose musical acts from funk to bluegrass taking the main stage. The menu goes big on burgers and pub favorites like the sausage plate, while rotating taps pour perfect apres-ski mainstays like Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro and Bonfire Tent Pole Vanilla Porter. For local brews, look for the little red building at the mouth of the Vail Valley; Vail Brewing Co. opened last year, and it’s already slinging a solid collection of easy drinkers from Hot Mess Blonde to Bollocks ESB. Concrete floors and wood-dressed walls give it a cool industrial feel, but expect a warm welcome from the locals who hang out here.
Aspen Brewing’s 65-seat taproom in the heart of downtown has a staff of serious snowboard and ski enthusiasts, so they can dish out mountain tips along with beer flights (served on custom boards made from skis). Closer to the slopes, ski off Highlands Mountain and right onto the porch at Highlands Ale House, which serves a full food menu (don’t miss the pizza) as well as mostly Colorado beers on draft.
Start off with a pint at The BARley, a downtown tavern 2.5 miles from the mountain. Choose from 31 mostly Colorado-brewed drafts, including casks, while snacking on plates including Elk Stone Farms pretzels and locally made jerky. Then head to the town’s two breweries, Butcherknife and Storm Peak, located just a mile from each other northwest of downtown.
Though the newer, more expansive location of Breckenridge Brewery is actually in Littleton, the Breckenridge Brewpub remains a laid-back spot for ski bum locals (and it has bragging rights as the highest brewpub in North America, at about 9,600 feet). Also check out newcomer Broken Compass Brewing’s taproom, tucked in an industrial park a mile from downtown. The best hidden beer gem, though, might be Rita’s Specialty Margs & Taco Bar (seriously), where eight draft lines have in the past poured heavy hitters like Alpine Duet, Almanac Saison Dolores and Crooked Stave Surette Provision Saison.