With more than 350 breweries in Colorado, the hardest part can be deciding where to go first. In the Upper Arkansas Valley promising options abound.
Now in its second year, Soulcraft Brewing is easily found on U.S 50 in Salida. It features locally brewed Belgian Black Maple, Gold Crown ESB, Pedaling Left American Strong Ale and Iron Bell Porter. Soulcraft Brewing offers a tasting room and large sunny deck, with food by Cosmo’s Fresh Pasta.
Elevation Beer Co. in Poncha Springs is a 10-minute drive from Salida. The tasting room features over 16 beers on tap. Try a First Cast IPA, with notes of grapefruit and pine, on their pet-friendly patio. With a hint of chocolate and coffee in each sip, Little Mo’ porter is a local favorite, named after a ski run at Monarch Mountain.
In downtown Salida, Moonlight Pizza and Brewpub has nine beers on tap, brewed in small batches. This brewery is known for its experiments in flavor. In the past it’s had short-run kegs of Thai Chili Stout and Mango IPA. Grab a growler to go or stay for a slice of legendary Moonlight pizza.
For Buena Vista excursions, Eddyline Brewery is a cozy spot to rest after a day of exploring in the mountains. The interior features décor devoted to mountain biking and rivers. There’s space to park your bike outside and a community square with a rock wall for children and adults.
The most popular beer is the seasonal Crank Yanker IPA, with bright grapefruit balanced by a bitter finish. For a relaxed Amber, try the Kickin Back Amber Lager. The beer goes well with their selection of wood-fired pizzas.
Leadville’s Periodic Brewing is a family-run, startup brewery that opened in 2015. The cozy interior features leather couches and a fireplace. For hop enthusiasts, the Alpine Tropics IPA mixes citrus with pine. Periodic also serves cider and kombucha. The menu includes pulled smoked pork BBQ sandwiches and Colorado bison bratwurst.
For those in search of stronger libations, there are distilleries and wineries to explore.
In the southern end of the valley, there’s Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, founded by brothers Tim and P.T. Wood (newly-elected mayor of Salida), who came up with the concept during a river trip down the Grand Canyon.
The Woods mash, ferment, distill, age, and bottle all their products on site. There are three types of gin and two whiskeys to choose from. The smoky Tenderfoot Whiskey is a single malt that’s aged in new American oak barrels. Their signature Treeline Gin is dry with licorice and juniper notes, the heart of a good martini. There are specially crafted Bloody Marys every Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The space features bicycles hanging from the ceiling and local art on walls.
The tasting room at Wood’s is an experience of the finest craft cocktails, seasonal ingredients, and fresh herb toddies, concocted by Wood’s expert mixologists. Starring Wood’s Tenderfoot Whiskey, hibiscus bitters, and Taylor’s Herbal Elixir, the Blossoming Sazerac is classically stirred and served up with a grapefruit twist. This is a staple on Wood’s ever changing seasonal menu that highlights over 15 housemade bitters.
In Buena Vista, step into Deerhammer Distillery for artisanal cocktails and live music on weekends. The whiskey process begins by milling malted barley, which can be smelled when you walk through the door. Every step is carried out by hand. The attention to detail is clear as the bartenders shake and pour expert drinks.
The Green Grind is like a sweet garden in a glass. It’s composed of Whitewater Whiskey, cucumber, lemon and apple juice. Sip the Hoboken cocktail, with DownTime Single Malt Whiskey, cherry liqueur and bitters. The Viking food cart serves burgers and copious varieties of tater tots.
Wine lovers will rejoice over Mountain Spirit Winery. A few miles west of Poncha Springs on CR 220, visit the winery for a tour and receive complimentary wine tastings.
Located on five lush acres of farmland, you’ll breathe in the apple orchards and take in mountain views. For a fresh blend of cherry and apple flavors, sample the Cherry Apple Blush. The gold medal winning Mountain Zin provides the merging of two varieties, zinfandel and cabernet franc.
Spend an evening at Vino Salida Wine Cellars in Poncha Springs, lounging in the outdoor picnic area while drinking handcrafted wines — a perfect spot for good conversations. The 2015 Cuvee Blanc is an excellent dry white wine with grassy notes. The festive 2014 Sparkling Reisling is brut-style, with floral and honey notes. Don’t miss the locally sourced charcuterie plate and live music Friday and Saturday nights.