...brews, wines, and food
Sitting at Two Rascal’s Brewing Company, sipping on a scrumptious pint of cherry-rhubarb cream ale, I chat with the brewster across the bar. “The Savor the San Juans event inspired me to brew this one-of-a-kind beer,” she says with a shy smile. The annual home and chef showcase features delectable tastes from the bounty of local farms presented in luxurious kitchens in local upscale homes. “The breakfast sampler at the event used the same rhubarb from San Juan Gardens, just outside of downtown, that is infused in this beer,” she explains. “It motivated me to infuse this beer with cherry along with the local rhubarb.”
As I enjoyed the fruits of her and others’ labors, I was reminded how agriculture on Colorado’s Western Slope inspires so many special celebrations and daily meals in the community — and beyond. The brewster’s story shares a common thread with many local chefs, brewers, and vintners who have a passion for their craft and a love of locally-grown ingredients.
Colorado is the third largest state for craft breweries, and Montrose exemplifies this designation as home to four incredible breweries, all within easy walking distance of each other.
The “Two Rascals” of the Two Rascals Brewing Company are a fatherson team who have been building their brewery in an historic building in downtown Montrose since 2012.
A few blocks east is Colorado Boy Pizzeria and Brewery, which has thrived in the historic Stockman’s building in downtown Montrose since May 2013. Colorado Boy got its start in nearby Ridgway, establishing a well-deserved reputation for creative artisan pizzas, divine gluten-free options, desserts, and fresh green salads paired with their award winning ales and cask ales. Affordable prices and growlers make it easy to take a taste of Colorado Boy with you. It’s a dining experience the whole family will enjoy.
Colorado Boy is owned and operated by Tom and Sandy Hennessy, who started in the brewing business in 1993. Since then, Tom has been pushing the idea of Frankenbrew, which details how to build inexpensive brewing systems, and published a video by the same name in 1995 that has achieved a cult following. He’s authored several books on business, including The Brewery Operations Manual, and has helped open over 50 breweries. Colorado Boy is the culmination of years of owning and operating different breweries. Stop by and see how small and efficient Frankenbrew works.
Two blocks east on Main Street is Zulu Brewing, a newcomer on the Montrose craft-brewing scene, featuring African-style beers and eats. The winner of the People’s Choice award at the annual 2016 Montrose Oktoberfest, Zulu invites you to “join the tribe” and visit them for a Montrose original.
Just a few blocks east is Horsefly Brewing Company, a familyowned business that took its name from Horsefly Peak, the highest summit of the Uncompahgre Plateau located west of town. Horsefly has a robust menu selection, and their “Between the Buns” favorite, “The Natural” burger, is made from locally-raised organic beef produced by Day Spring Farm in Olathe, a farming community situated just a few miles north of Montrose. After the Horsefly team cooks your burger to perfection, pair it with a delectable Peach Ale during peach season (late summer), a one-of-a-kind Six Shooter IPA, or a Peacemaker Double Pale Ale. Kids — or the kid in you — can order up a sweet, homemade root beer, also crafted on the premises.
As craft brewing’s popularity has rocketed skyward in the United States, experiencing nearly 18 percent growth in 2014 alone, several Western Slope farmers like Misty Mountain Hop Farm in Olathe have benefited from the boom by hopping on the hops bandwagon. Three years in a row their hops have been used in award-winning beers that have originated on the Western Slope and beyond.
The vital ingredients of long sunny days, low humidity, and plentiful irrigation water make Olathe an ideal place to cultivate hops. You can spot hops farms along State Highway 348 from the telltale tall poles, necessary to support the growth of hops vines, rising in the middle of acres of farmland. In early April, the stringing process for the hops begins as crews tie twine to each hops plant to secure it for vertical growth. By May, the vines have started their journey to the heavens, wrapping around the twine and growing stronger and taller each day. Harvest of the flowering plant begins in August and continues through October.
While some become ingredients for local concoctions, many of the hops that grow on the Western Slope become a key ingredient in the AC Golden Brewing Company‘s Colorado Native beer, which took Gold and Silver in the American Style Amber Lager awards at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. This Colorado beer can be purchased at many local liquor stores.
A new beer from AC Golden, simply called “Olathe”, celebrates the harvest and rich agricultural heritage of its namesake with a German-style golden lager, brewed with Misty Mountain’s crystal and nugget hops, world famous “Olathe Sweet” sweet corn, and locally grown Charles two-row winter barley malt.
Biking along the way
If activity before imbibing appeals, tour the terrain of Western Slope agriculture on your bicycle. Nestled between many of the hops farms you’ll spot vineyards, orchards, and cattle ranches, as well as fields of famous “Olathe Sweet” sweet corn, fresh-cut hay, onions, and pinto beans. Several road-biking routes are favored by local cyclists and form memorable paths to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the countryside. The 35-mile Fruit Loop is a rolling ride through the rural community west and north of town, and the 19-mile Town Loop, parts of which are newly paved, takes you through scenic pastoral areas south of Montrose and includes a few mesa climbs.
Three vineyards within 20 miles of Montrose welcome cyclists and non-cycling visitors alike. Each offers stylish tasting rooms where you can sit, relax, and enjoy a local wine. Michael and Wendy Young, third-generation Western Slope farmers and owners of Mountain View Winery, tend their organic vineyard and diligently bottle their wines on the premises. Continuing west on State Highway 348 you’ll come to Cottonwood Cellars where proprietors Keith and Diana began their winery operation in 1994. Cottonwood Cellars is nestled in a lovely spot just west of Dry Creek. Garrett Estates is at the top of the hill at the end of Falcon Road. Owner Mitch Garrett hosts tastings throughout the year.
All of the Western Slope wineries feature awardwinning traditions with their own unique flair.
As I enjoy the last sips of my local rhubarb brew at Two Rascals, I raise my glass to salute the hardworking farmers who provide such a tremendous variety of delicious, local food. I toast those in agriculture who adorn our exceptional vistas with beautiful fields and the fabulous fruits of their labors from which our Montrose area chefs, brewers, and vintners create exceptional food and drink.
From the vertical vines of hops to the horizontal vines of grapes, exceptional selections in the Montrose area are waiting to be discovered..