ANIMAS BREWING COMPANY
Animas Brewing Co is the newest entrant to a rich brewery scene in Durango. Located along the city’s cool river walk trail, the brewery itself has an industrial feel to it, perhaps blended with a German beer garden. The most surprising part of the interior is a large poster above the brewing area of the comedian Jim Gaffigan, a gift, we were told, from the owners of Ska Brewing, who were teasing the Animas owners over a menu dominated by pasties (pasties being like Hot Pockets, about which Gaffigan has a fairly well known (but not to us) joke set) (ed: be careful googling “pasties” at work…).
We didn’t try any pasties, but we did eat some out of-of-this-world pretzel bites. And we admired the burgers our table neighbors were eating.
Now on to the beer. It was good. In our view, not quite Ska good or Carver good, but very strong nonetheless. Were we to move to Durango, this brewery would certainly be in our rotation. Good beer, cool location, good atmosphere and seemingly good food.
BREW PUB & KITCHEN
As the name might suggest, Durango’s BREW Pub & Kitchen is a restaurant that happens to brew its own beer. It’s a small and cozy space in downtown Durango, dominated by a long bar by the entrance, where we sat and enjoyed a flight.
BREW has four flagship beers–a Bock, a double IPA, a Hefeweizen and an Ale brewed with ginger and lemongrass. When we were there they also had two of their three advertised seasonals, a Heather Braggot (think really old-timey, spiced beer) and a Scottish Ale. We tried everything but the Bock (not a big fan of the malty beers) and were pretty pleased.
In addition to serving up their own beers, BREW also offers a number of third-party micro-brews on tap. As for the food, the menu looked interesting (think high-end pub food), but we were there mid-afternoon and didn’t try anything.
CARVER BREWING COMPANY
Calling itself the Southwest’s original brewpub, Carver Brewing Co first opened its doors in 1988, making it Colorado’s second oldest brewery.
The interior resembles a pub, with a nice, fairly small bar in the front, tables spread throughout and a beer garden in the back. We don’t go to breweries for the food –and are often disappointed when the food at times emphasized at the expense of the beer –but the food at Carver was outstanding.
The beer, on the other hand, was almost other-worldly. They had my staples –a top-notch IPA, double IPA and Pale Ale –but also some oddball seasonals that we loved, such as a saison brewed with local dandelions (in addition to hops) and a “pre-prohibition style lager” (stronger and more flavorful). They rotate the majority of their beers and don’t even have an IPA as a constant. No matter; they had a full assortment of hoppy beers (including two IPAs) while we were there. Durango possesses a strong beer culture (a strong culture overall, actually), and for my money Carver had the best beer in the city.
Unlike the other Durango, Colorado breweries, Ska Brewing is located a few miles outside downtown, in a cool industrial setting amidst the city’s big box-type stores. Complementing the industrial feel are two sections of the building that were carved out of former shipping containers. The interior is spacious without being too big and there is a large outdoor space as well.
In addition to being a pretty stylish place –you know, for a brewery–it’s also environmentally friendly. The brewery says it’s 100% wind powered, and through solar lighting and intelligent design has cut its energy usage by 50% from its previous location.
Aside from a solid atmosphere, Ska has outstanding beers, including an impressive variety of hoppy options for me. For me, the Rudie’s session IPA was the highlight and we left with a full growler and a six pack. In addition to a fully stocked beer fridge on location, Ska seems to have pretty strong distribution, throughout Colorado, as well as in parts of AZ, TX, NM, KS, NE, Southern CA and the Chicago area.
The brewery also serves food, but it seems a bit of an afterthought, with a separate counter –and tab–for a pretty limited menu. We had a bit of hummus–all I can remember is the beer.