We’re not in (Ar) Kansas Anymore

Beer and River

Dusty Lanci rides the Owyhee River (OR) in style. Photo by Sarah Lanci.

The newest member of the mountain-brewing fraternity is Elevation Beer Co., a start-up taking root in Poncha Springs. If you find yourself wondering, where in the hell is Poncha Springs, don’t feel bad. Half the Chaffee County locals interviewed couldn’t place it. Head north, and you’re in Buena Vista. Head east to nearby Salida. Head west and you’ll be on Monarch Pass. Head south for the Poncha Pass and the metropolis of Saguache.

If this sounds like a remote location for a brewery, it is. But for their business plan, Poncha is centrally located. Elevation intends to brew for a different market than many microbreweries. Rather than going after taps and brewing for volume, Elevation plans three product lines for production. Based on the rating scheme for ski trails, their Blue Square brews will be easier-drinking beers, and distributed locally on tap.

The other two lines, dubbed Black Diamond and Double Black, will feature bigger, bolder expressions of beer style with the first releases to be a Belgian Quadruple made with caramelized honey and a Farmhouse Ale aged in chardonnay barrels. These will be distributed “corked & caged” in 750ml champagne bottles throughout Colorado and are aimed at the beer aficionado market. Look for Elevation where you buy beer by press time, and stop in for their grand opening to be held at the brewery on May 19th.

Since we last checked in with the Eddyline Brewery, located in the South Main area of Buena Vista (MG #179), things seem to have been going well. A new facility and canning line is complete and operational, and distribution in 16-ounce cans has taken off with a newly inked deal that should put their beer on shelves across the High Country of Colorado this summer. To celebrate, Eddyline is co-sponsoring the Colorado Kayak Supply (CKS) Paddlefest on May 25-27th and will have a special release, Paddlefest Pilsner a.k.a Boater Beer, on hand for the event. This beer is a craft-brewed American Lager, perfect for hot summer days on the river. With back-to-back “Best of the Fest” awards from the Telluride Blues n’ Brews festival to their name, Eddyline is on a roll heading into summer 2012.

According to head brewer Mike LaCroix, Amicas Microbrewery in Salida will be featuring several seasonal releases, as well as a few new brews this spring. In addition to the Ute Trail Pale Ale, look for the next in their series of single-hop IPAs to be released, with this version featuring the Australian grown “Galaxy” hop. Single-hop IPAs take a simple base beer and then bitter it with one variety of hop, rather than mixing several to generate a more complex hop profile. The idea is to provide a clean base on which to showcase the flavors of the hop variety without distraction. Mike has also been exploring the craft of barrel-aging beer, and will be releasing an Imperial Brown Honey Ale, aged in a bourbon barrel for several months. It should come in around 12% abv, and will only be available on tap starting in mid-April.

Also in Salida, Moonlight Pizza has begun brewing beer. Billed as “beer for the worker bees,” the brewing operation was started to complement the existing pizza business. All indications are that this is a groovy place worthy of a stop, as they say, after running a marathon, leading your first 5.10b or swimming a rapid.

Erich Hennig is an avid homebrewer and lives in Durango, CO.