There is something intrinsically Coloradan about beer. Like life here, a cold pint feels casual and uncomplicated, even if making beer is anything but. Adding to that local flavor, the Roaring Fork Valley has seen a handful of new craft breweries and beer-centric establishments pop up over the past few years, run by a new generation of beer geeks for whom brewing is an art form. So, rather than swirling and sniffing through a wine tasting in town, seek out some refined suds on a tour de beer.
With thirty rotating beers on tap, 200 craft beers in bottles and cans from all over the world, and an outdoor biergarten on the Hyman Avenue Mall, HOPS is Aspen’s beer-nerd paradise. Look for a wider selection of easy-drinking lagers and several sours, the latter a style growing in popularity. Bacteria in the brewing process increases sours’ acidity (via the same process that gives sourdough bread its taste), but the beers still drink crisp and refreshing. hopsculture.com, 970-925-4677
STOP NO. 2:
ASPEN BREWING COMPANY
The Brew Co.’s beers tend to be high in alcohol and big in flavor, an Aspen-in-a-glass authenticity that can come only from someone who lives here. ABC founder Duncan Clauss has created staples of local beer coolers (who wouldn'’t want a can of This Season’s Blonde on a river trip?) plus a few award-winners, including the 2014 World Beer Cup gold medalist Brett Barrel Saison. The seasonal lineup also includes Silver City Ale, new for this year, and the Cougar, an aged blonde (get it?) made in wine barrels with organic Paonia peaches. As you probably predicted, she’s a little sour. Brewery tours take place by appointment on Fridays and Saturdays. aspenbrewingcompany.com, 970-920-2739
STOP NO. 3:
CARBONDALE BEER WORKS
You may not know what “grains of paradise” are, but you’ll pick up on their tropical peppery flavor in this summer’s seasonal saison at Carbondale Beer Works. Owner Jeff Dahl studied commercial brewing in England and likes to lean on English malt and English-style yeast to create his trademark “big, full-bodied, flavorful” beers. Don’t miss this summer’s seasonal cream ale, made with flaked corn and malted barley for what Dahl describes as a “super drinkable lawnmower beer.” carbondalebeerworks.com, 970-704-1216
STOP NO. 4:
ROARING FORK BEER CO.
Babies, dogs, board games, and bikes are part of what makes Roaring Fork Brewing Company in Carbondale feel like a friendly neighborhood pub. There’s also the beer. Owner Chase Engel prides himself on no-frills, easy-drinking beers such as Slaughterhouse Lager and Freestone Extra Pale Ale, the latter well-balanced and “not trying to be something it’s not.” This summer look for a new saison brewed with hibiscus and orange peel that’s pink in color, dry, crisp, and super refreshing, as well as the Mountain Fair Beer, an easy-drinking hoppy wheat beer made with pineapple and whole citra hops that will serve as the signature suds for Carbondale’s annual four-day festival. roaringforkbeerco.com, 970-963-5870
STOP NO. 5:
IF YOU’RE LUCKY
CASEY BREWING & BLENDING
As the new kid on the block, Troy Casey has chosen to focus exclusively on Old World Belgian–style beers made almost exclusively with Colorado ingredients. Every batch is handmade, unfiltered, wood-fermented, and wood-aged to make a tart, rustic, “wild” beer. In part because supply is so limited, Casey’s beer is also in demand, and his riverside brewery in Glenwood Springs is open to the public only on the first Saturday of every month. But for the droves willing to wait in line, there are no sour grapes—just lots of wild yeast, local whole fruit, and a beer Casey describes as “magic.” caseybrewing.com, 970-230-9691