The Upper Arkansas River Valley is known as an adventurer’s paradise. From summer hiking along several fourteens to world-class rapids, to epic mountain biking and 4×4 trails, the options seem limitless. The fun doesn’t stop in the winter either, with skiing and snowboarding ranging from gravelly backcountry slopes to one of the most underrated ski resorts and still with a small-town vibe. , Monarch Mountain. The beer scene is also surprisingly diverse: rarely will you see so many breweries offering such a wide range of styles and doing such a damn good job of brewing them. Most of these stops will also offer quality food, so don’t sleep on a bite as you sip foam on the terrace in the sun or replenish a winter pint in the comforting warmth of the tavern.
Located at the base of Tenderfoot Mountain (better known as S Mountain, for the prominent “S” on the face) and next to the Arkansas River, Salida is a mix of welcoming downtown and mountain living. There are plenty of amenities, and the city has done a great job of keeping unique small businesses thriving in and around the city center, with big-box stores located on the outskirts. Salida is also the densest brewing town in the valley. Its four breweries can make for a fun beer spree, and there’s no shortage of dining options either. Any mention of breweries and Salida must include Brewer’s Rendezvous, an annual festival hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild that usually takes place in July and has become a cult following among brewers and other industry professionals.
Moonlight Pizza and Brewery
242 F Street
Moonlight perhaps embodies the spirit of the mountain town most of all the breweries in the valley. It has a small-batch brewing system producing what usually equates to at least a dozen different beers on tap and pies made on a savory, fluffy homemade crust. The bustling outdoor patio is a great place for people-watching, and this brewery has a certain fun attitude about it — a mountain vibe with a unique personality.
248 Rainbow Boulevard West
Soulcraft is an upstart from former Amicas brewer Mike LaCroix. Located on busy Highway 50 along a mix of businesses from restaurants to service-oriented stops to gift shops, the bar is spacious, with a roughly equal outdoor patio to match. There are also on-site and guest food trucks that cater to food needs throughout the week. A recent visit to Soulcraft was a treat for the taste buds, with the Mexican Amber standing out as a clean, balanced beer with a good mouthfeel and a dry finish. The X-Ray IPA was another notable beer; it’s a west coast IPA that’s bitter and dry but with a wide variety of flavors from several new and old hops.
Tres Litros beer company
118 North East Street
Tres Litros is a new addition to the ever-growing Salida beer scene. Located about a football field’s length from the Arkansas River and a few blocks from downtown Salida, the brewery is in a prime location, and the crowds that gather during peak times really reflect that. The beer list is strong across the board, with the IPA game standing out the most.
Amicas Pizza, microbreweries and more
127 F Street
Amicas no longer brews its own beer and has not moved since a short move about five years ago. However, it is a staple in Salida and has been for years, serving great pizza alongside a tap list that includes many local brews as well as house beers made by Soulcraft.
Buena Vista – or BV as many call it – sits just off Highway 285 and, by default, is the closest major town for most visitors entering the valley from the Front Range. While one of the best beer bars you’ll find anywhere, Jailhouse, remains closed, there are more than a handful of fantastic restaurants, a lovely distillery in Deerhammer and plenty of shops to visit in this quaint town . Main Street is quite walkable and there are plenty of outdoor activities nearby. Further up the road, South Main is a newer neighborhood just a few blocks from historic downtown, where new stores, townhouses, restaurants – including Eddyline’s Restaurant – and more line the street .
Browns Canyon Brewery
23850 US Highway 285
Although technically in Buena Vista, this brewery is located off the highway six miles south of downtown, just outside the small town of Nathrop. Located on the grounds of the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center, Browns Canyon is a place for adventurers to unwind after a day outdoors. The MROC offers guided water, mountain and snow sports tours and safety training while running a free ATV park, named Junk Yard, on site. A food truck led by a chef is also permanently installed on the site. The house beers are made on the road at Poncha Springs in Elevation, and the high quality reflects that. Future plans include an expansion for an on-site small-batch brewing system, among other additions.
Eddyline Brewing Company
102 Linderman Avenue
Opened in 2009, Eddyline has long been a staple in the valley. With a bar and restaurant located within a mile of each other, there’s always plenty of Eddyline to go around BV. The restaurant offers a great choice of dishes, barbecue being a favorite among the locals. Crank Yanker IPA is perhaps its best-known beer, a solid 7% ABV IPA that resonates with drinkers throughout the Valley and along the Front Range.
Springs of Poncha
This small town of just over 1,000 people is located at the intersection of highways 285 and 50. You can drive south to Alamosa or west to Monarch Ski Resort, Gunnison and the -of the. Although sparsely populated, the town has a few good restaurants, a well-stocked grocery and hardware store, and a fantastic brewery.
Elevation Beer Company
115 Pahlone Drive
Elevation Beer Company is a real gem in the valley. With plenty of great beer for everyone, Elevation manages to stand out in an ever-growing field of breweries. From clean, crisp pilsners to specialty barrel-aged farmhouse ales, Elevation offers a wide range of expertly executed beers to choose from at any time. Some of the best bar seating you’ll find anywhere greets you in the cozy dining room, while the expansive beer garden is the place to be when the sun is shining. Elevation is a not-to-be-missed brewery if you’re in the valley, and that’s especially true if you’re passing through, as Poncha Springs is the gateway to destinations further afield like Crested Butte, Gunnison and Montrose.