Before I even got to New Mexico, I was already drinking beer. We found a few great breweries during our side trip to Louisville, including Mile High and Gravely.
Gravely was my absolute favorite in terms of atmosphere and beer quality. We sat on the big outside deck (hello, skeeters!) and took in the dusk while sipping on their delicious lager and IPAs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic of Gravely since we were there late and there wasn’t good outdoor lighting. So here are the brewery cats!
Red River, New Mexico
Right before I left NM in early August, I did a two-brewery hop with my poet friend Stacey Balkun. I’d been to Red River Brewing by myself once before, and even though it’s a very new venue, they already have an incredible set-up (including growlers and merchandise) and some great beer choices. It was fun to be back in the touristy town of Red River, which has a feel all its own (i.e. verging on Stephen King horror).
Angel Fire, New Mexico
Enchanted Circle Brewing in Angel Fire was an interesting choice. It feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but when we stopped on a Tuesday afternoon, it was packed with lunch goers, who, according to the server, had no other choice in the small ski town.
The interior feels homey. Note the exposed wooden beams in the ceiling, typical of New Mexican architecture.
Two of the beers we sampled had a tang that was not appropriate for the beer type: a barrel aged Belgian quad and a rye pale ale. The Nice Day IPA had a good tang, though, and we were impressed by the vanilla porter, which was like Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a dark beer. I doubt I’ll ever go back, but part of the fun in going to new breweries is to check out the atmosphere and the beer. Hashtag ‘joyed it!
What was supposed to be a five-hour drive from Taos to Denver turned out to be over six once I hit interstate traffic in Colorado Springs (lesson learned). So stopping at Spangalang Brewing in Denver was just what I needed before I got back on the road to see my sister in Longmont.
I loved Spangalang’s atmosphere — chic enough for the young & hip but casual enough for craft beer enthusiasts like me. The beer I tried was amazing — the D-Train IPA; the Sugarfoot Belgian blonde, which had won a bunch of awards; and the Brut Colossus double IPA that I got a crowler of to-go. Darren, one of the co-owners/brewers, treated me to the Le Voyage wine barrel-aged Belgian tripel, which was fruity and not my cup of tea (or beer).
Turns out, Darren and his posse had worked for Great Divide back in the day. Because of their regular and barrel-aged Yeti, Great Divide was my original destination brewery in Denver, but I didn’t feel the need to go once I got to the Great City. Part of it, I think, was because I made it to Spangalang, and that was more than enough for me.
Fort Collins, Colorado
I’d heard of Odell Brewing sometime in a far away land, and I kept hearing about it when I was in Taos. There was the 90 Shilling Scottish ale on tap at KTAOS, and the delicious Rupture IPA in cans at some convenience store near Manby Hot Springs. I decided to check out the brewery in Fort Collins, which was a delightful spot in the middle of factories and global logistics hubs.
Their beer is so good. I was quite impressed, especially by the Myrcenary double IPA and the Odell IPA. Even though it’s a bit of a drive from the Denver/Longmont area (with traffic — but of course), the outdoor space is big enough to make it seem not-busy on a Friday afternoon, and there’s just so much good beer that you have to make more than one trip to try it all. (I didn’t; will be back.)
A cool detail: As you walk up to the building, there are hops plants growing up the columns!
The original Oskar Blues is in a small town called Lyons. I showed up at opening time on a random weekday, but all their inside space (read: multiple bars) made me think it’s not always dead.
Located near Boulder, a college town, this Oskar Blues has my favorite of theirs, Old Chubb, on nitro, so I had to get it. They also had several offerings I haven’t seen canned in North Carolina, but it was 11 in the morning, people. I’m not that much of a lush!
(Note: I did try the Pinner throwback IPA later, when I took some cans to a day on the lake. It was delightful. I’m not one for low ABV beers, but man: this hit the spot on a hot day in the sun.)
We made a random pit stop along interstate 70 on our way home from New Mexico, and saw a sign for Arcadian Moon, a winery and a brewery. I was intrigued by the combo; the only one I know is West Bend Winery and Brewery, although I wasn’t too impressed by their beer at the Tanglewood Wine Festival this year. Arcadian Moon, though, is something else.
We had the place to ourselves given it was a Monday, but there were a bunch of tables and chairs set up on the wide, multi-level deck, and there was even an archway for weddings in the yard. Clearly, this is a perfect event space, but what about the beer and wine?
I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of both, particularly the beer. I ordered a pint of the oatmeal stout, which was hearty and delicious and absolutely solid, no matter the season, and we got a bottle of the Atlas red wine to-go.
Also, I loved the novelty of a mixed flight. You can get your choice of wine or beer in any combination to try, and it’s only $5.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is a beer town, our Airbnb host explained. With the Anhauser-Busch factory close by, the city water is excellent, and there are no shortage of craft breweries.
Morgan Street Brewery was a bit subpar (the maibock wasn’t great, the pale ale was only decent, and the fried balls of mashed potatoes weren’t nearly as amazing as I thought they’d be), so we went to a cute, owl-themed bar called Tick Tock Tavern. The bartender said all their beer comes from within a 120-mile radius of St. Louis, and since my husband was asking about Schlafly Brewing, a staple in St. Louis, a nearby couple had to ask, “You’re from out of town, aren’t you?”
The people in this Midwest city are friendly and encouraging, the City Museum holds unbelievable adventures (we hear), and the Modern Brewing Citrapolis IPA was so damned good, I’m just gonna have to come back here someday, too.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
After the habit of going to a new city and trying their beer, we decided to make a pitstop in our hometown before heading home. Wise Man Brewing is one of our favorite breweries in the city, not just because they brew amazing beer (yeah, I still think so!) but because we were two of the first customers they ever had. It seemed like the best way to end our road trip across the country, and the best way to be welcomed back home.