Road Trip Part 2: Ouray and Telluride

We woke up the next morning just as the hot breakfast was being served. We ended up at a table with a couple of college kids from Denver and ended up staying at breakfast longer than we planned just chatting. They were there on a deal too. The green chili egg bake and cream cheese danishes were an amazing way to start our second day of adventure.  Our original plan was to spend the morning sledding, but all the locals kept telling us there was no snow on the hill, and the ski hill was too busy for sledding because of Cabin Fever Days. We decided to nix the sledding and headed into Telluride.

We took the San Juan Scenic Byway into town. I have never been to Telluride, but as a Colorado native I’ve heard the legends and seen pictures. None of which actually do justice to this beautiful town. Parking was a huge nightmare and there were too many women with sunglasses bigger than their dogs walking at a glacial pace across crosswalks (I’m sure to avoid getting slush on their Uggs), but we eventually made it to Smugglers Brewpub. A small restaurant a of couple blocks from the main strip, it was dark and quiet inside with only a few other patrons. From the windows, you could watch a ski lift take the skiiers up and then watch them fall ski down the steep hill. We took a seat at the bar and started a nice conversation with the bartender about the beers. He was very knowledgeable about the beers and the brewery. There were SEVENTEEN beers on tap with super cute 5oz. mini stein taster glasses. There was no way we were going to the able to try them all, we each picked a couple we wanted to try. We tried Rocky Mountain Rye, Road Rash Red, Two Planker Porter, 10:13 Oatmeal Stout, and one just named Dunkel. I liked the red and the belgian style Dunkel(surprise!). The bartender informed us that it was a new style to them, as they just recently got a new brewer (we will find out why in Telluride). He then lead us to the elevator that took us down to the brew house.

The brewer, TJ, was very chatty even though he never once stopped switching couplers and transferring beer. We didn’t even have to ask him questions, he just talked. He also told us he brews (alone) “8-10 hours a day 6-8 days a week”‘ so I am sure he was enjoying our company! He was really young and had tons of enthusiasm. He really wanted to shake things up and produce some awesome new beers for Smugglers. The brew house was tiny with a 5 barrel kettle in the corner, and since he was brewing it was humid with plenty of water dripping from the ceiling. We didn’t stay too long, it was a small space and he was trying to work after all.

On our way out of the main downtown of Telluride, we passed a man standing in the middle of the street, wearing rose colored glasses, smoking a cigar and painting. Of course, we immediately pulled over to have a chat.

Talking with him was like running into an old friend. We stood in the middle of the street with him for a while discussing Fort Collins, which he knew quite well.

It took us almost 30 minutes to get to Telluride Brewing Co. even though it was less than 10 minutes away. We found it in a newly-built-to-look-old shopping strip just outside of town after second guessing ourselves, turning around a couple times and attempting to use the GPS on my 3 year old phone. The bar is tucked in a corner of the brew house and their are no chairs or tables. You have to walk past pallets of empty cans and large fermenters before you can order your beer. Both Alyse and I loved the set up, it makes having a beer there more about the craft than just drinking. My favorite part however, was the huge “Steal Your Face” painted above the bar with their logo and hop vines.

They went economical and their taster glasses are simply their pint glasses, which all have a 4oz. line printed on them. They have a deal where you can taste all 8 of their beers and keep the glass. We each went for the bargain- because we’re predictable like that. Alyse however asked for only 2oz or less in her pours as she was driving, which our beertender so graciously let some of the extras end up in my glass. Out of all that we tried there was only one that I wouldn’t have ordered again, and I am pretty sure it was brewed as an answer to the question, “what’s the closest thing you have to water bud light?”. 

Rye #1, their first ever batch as they only opened in October of 2011 was hoppy but sweet, just how I like it. Face Down Brown, Tempter IPA and the Stout (made with oatmeal and cocoa nibs) were fantastic and well balanced. We ended up purchasing a growler of Red Fish Ale and a 6 pack of Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale to take home to our friends. Red Fish Ale is named after Fish, the brewer and master mind behind Telluride Brewing Co. The medal winning ale we liked so much at Smugglers? His recipe! He was the brewer their for nearly a decade before branching out on his own last year, and for good reasons. He obviously knows what he is doing. Luckily he was around brewing a batch and we got to talk with him a bit. If I were to ever open a brewery, Fish and Telluride Brewing, would be a huge influence in its conception.

Now that I was a bit tipsy from Alyse’s left overs we headed to Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery. On a street in downtown Ridgway that is not even paved just a few minutes outside Ouray sits an adorable little pub with a small bar and only a couple tables. The small brewing system sits right inside the door next to the bar with a small wall around it. We heard from the locals that the beer was OK but the pizza is amazing so we had planned on having dinner here. I love traveling with Alyse because she is adventureous, as soon as we got the menu we agreed to order something fun and local that we can only get in Ridgway. We settled on the Home Pie, a pizza with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, copicollo ham, farm egg, and fresh argula. The bartender told us everything but the cheese was local. The yolk of the egg, placed in the center of the pizza, broke apart when you sliced the pizza and became a dipping sauce. The locals were wrong, it wasn’t amazing, it was phenomenal. Not a word was said between us as we ate the entire pizza. We also ordered a flight of their beers, 5 in all which had generic style names but came with a flip top bottle of water. We settled on a red as our favorite, continuing our trend.

As 5pm approached on the Friday afternoon the place began filling up. Patrick sat next to us, a local who works across the street at a shop that makes the Grammy awards. We got to stop by and see many years worth of the trophy’s on display on the walls. Patrick even gets to attend the big event every year.

Next, a little down time in the hot springs…..

After a little relaxation, a shower, and lots of lotion thanks to the hot springs in winter, we walked over to the Ourayle House. At every stop along the way so far when we mentioned we were staying in Ouray we were asked, “are you going to the Mr. Grumpy Pants brewery?”. This guy certainly has a reputation. He is supposedly secretive about his brew house, keeps random and inconvenient hours and can sometimes be quite rude. We were slightly nervous to go in. Located in an old commerical garage, the inside looked like a 1890’s log cabin with a wood stove and both vintage and modern ice climbing equipment on the walls. There are wooden signs all over the place with snarky, sarcastic quips about how he doesn’t care if you like his beer or service. We ordered one flight, because he only has enough glasses to pour one. There are games located all over the tiny bar, and we played a few rounds of cards.  His beers have names like “Super sexy bitch pants jenny -something-something-something”. I can’t remember all of it, but I know super sexy bitch pants was in there. Usually, I have a notebook to write stuff down, but for some reason here I didn’t. Later I found out the sign that says “days since last beer Madonna” was to mock people who think they know everything about beer, which according to Mr. Grumpy Pants includes those who write stuff down. I guess I just had good intuition to not bring my notebook. All the brews were a little different than things I’m used too. A lot sweeter and almost no taste of hops. My favorite was the Mongolian Mountain Majik.

Eventually, Mr. Grumpy Pants came near us and I got up the nerve to strike up a conversation. Now, all the people we met who actually live in Ouray do not call him Mr. Grumpy Pants, and do not call his brewery the Ourayle House. They call him Hutch and his bar “Hutch’s place”, so I knew he couldn’t be all bad. He has been open for four years after all. He was incredibly nice and open. I don’t know if it is because we are of the female persuasion, we brought him beer, or if we just caught him on a good day. We ended up staying there, having pints, chatting with him and a couple of ice climbers until late.

We didn’t make it to Ouray Brewery because we were having such a good time at Hutch’s, we forgot to look at the clock until after they closed.



Filed under Brewery, Brewery Trips, Day Trips, Fort Collins Events, Travel

2 responses to “Road Trip Part 2: Ouray and Telluride

  1. Nice article, we are planning on hitting some of the same Western Slope breweries this Summer. Good to hear Smuggler’s is getting their act together. One of the worst visits I ever had to a brewery was at Smuggler’s in Grand Junction.

    We met Tom, the genius behind Colorado Boy, last Fall and look forward to visiting with him.

    • Word on the street is that since Fish left it hasn’t been doing awesome. Many people referred to it as “Strugglers”. It was one of my least favorite stops, but not the worst 🙂 Colorado Boy was one of my favorites, get the pizza. We still talk about it 😉

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