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Road Trippin’ On I-70. Palisade and Grand Junction, CO

A few months back I did a little bloggin’ about some of the breweries west of Denver, along I-70. Between Denver and Breckenridge, we visited multiple breweries, each with their own unique atmosphere, serving up a variety of beers.  I broke it up into several parts and if you missed it, you can find them here: Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.   In this blog entry, I’m going to cover another chunk of territory along I-70 by visiting the far outposts of Palisade and Grand Junction.

Palisade, CO is just under 4 hours west of Denver and takes you through a beautiful section of the state.  70 follows the Colorado River, weaving through canyons and between ancient mountains.  My son kept his eyes on the railroad tracks along the way, as it’s a busy route for trains.

Pulling into Palisade, you’re immediately greeted by orchards and vineyards.  There’s a nearly 20 mile loop that winds through the beautiful farms and wineries scattered across the valley.  We set off in our car and discovered some great wines, delicious fruits and even got to meet a baby alpaca at one of the local farms.

Back in the downtown area, we came across Palisade Brewing Company.

We arrived just in time for lunch and a few pints.  It didn’t take us long to meet Palisade’s Head Brewer, Danny Wilson, who was chatting with several customers at the bar.  I introduced myself and he was quick to offer a tour of his brew house.

Danny runs Palisade Brewing on a 20 BBL brew system, with 40 BBL’s of fermentation tanks.  He came over and sat with us while we sipped on Love Potion #2.  This beer was brewed to celebrate Palisade’s recent 2nd Anniversary.  Love Potion #2 is a Belgian Farmhouse ale that pours a cloudy, straw color.  Aroma is bread, light fruit, yeast and a touch of funk, while the taste is refreshing and fruity, with pepper, spice, earth and yeast.  A really well crafted beer.  Very enjoyable and sessionable.

We followed up Love Potion #2 with a pint of Hopta Session IPA.  Danny has been experimenting with different IPA recipes and this one is a hoppy, yet lighter ABV, sessionable variation.

Things seem to be going well for Palisade Brewing Company as they slowly convert the palates of the towns’ popular wine drinkers into equally appreciative craft beer drinkers.  There’s talk about eventually getting into the canning business and out onto store shelves.

I really get excited to hear news like this and wish Danny and Palisade the best.  He is very passionate about his craft and loves to talk to fellow beer geeks.  Check them out next time you’re out that way or give them a try at GABF this year.  You won’t regret it.  Palisade Brewing Company is located at: 200 Peach Ave, Palisade, CO 81526.  970-464-1462.

Right out the back door and 1/2 a block down from Palisade Brewing Company is Peach Street Distillers.  I know, I know, we’re all about beer on this blog, but the process is so similar, I’ve got to give credit to the distillers when I can.  Peach Street makes a variety of liquors including straight and fruit vodkas, brandies, gins and a straight bourbon.  I even saw a pear brandy that had a full size pear inside the bottle.  They put the bottles around little pears and let the pears grow inside the bottle!  Wild stuff.

Peach Street was named Distiller of the Year for 2012 and is making some really nice stuff.  Like I said, it’s just across the street from Palisade Brewing Company and should be on your list if you’re out that way.  Peach Street Distillers is located at: 144 S Kluge #2, Palisade, CO 81526.  970-464-1128.

Travel just another 10 minutes further west, down I-70 and you reach Grand Junction, CO.  Going to Grand Junction is like taking a step back in time.  Everyone we met was friendly and the pace seemed a little slower.  It just had that small town feel about it.

We arrived into town in time to catch the first farmer’s market of the summer.  This is a weekly event in downtown Grand Junction, where they close down Main Street to traffic and allow farmers, artisans and vendors to set up booths and sell their goods.  The first booth we approached was selling a variety of cherries, plums and apricots.

Man, oh man, there’s some tasty fruit out there.  Someone should really think about setting up a lambic or fruit based brewery out that way.  I’m a huge fan of CO peaches and those should be showing up in grocery stores very shortly.  We took our time exploring the market, listening to live, local music and even getting a horse-drawn carriage ride for the kids.

Eventually, we made our way to Rockslide Brewing Company for dinner and a few beers.

The Rockslide had more of a Rock Bottom, almost chain atmosphere to it, but the food and beers were still very good and the place was absolutely packed.  For beers, we went with the seasonal Wimpy Dark Chocolate Pale Ale.  It was essentially a Black IPA, which had roasted, chocolatey notes to it.  Their other seasonal was called Vintage, which was an American Pilsner.  A very clean, crisp beer, which paired well with the 95 degree heat outside.

Rockslide Brewing is located at: 401 Main St, Grand Junction, CO 81501.  970-245-2111.

We also made a quick stop at Kannah Creek for a growler fill.  This place was packed and has the brewery on display behind the bar.  I got my growler filled with the IPA for the journey home.

Kannah Creek is located at: 1960 North 12th St, Grand Junction, CO 81501.  970-263-0111.

Just down the street from Kannah Creek, is the Breckenridge Ale House , which is located at: 2531 North 12th St, Grand Junction 81501.  970-242-7253.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to stop in for a visit.  There’s only so many hours in the day.  But, it’s part of the Breckenridge Brewing family and I’m sure it’s worth a stop.

I also stumbled upon a great liquor store with a massive selection of bombers.  They had everything from hard to find Dogfish Head 750’s, interesting Belgians and even vintage beers.  Although, I may have picked up the last of the older World Wide Stouts they had back there.  I’m still confident you’ll find something interesting for your cellar.

After wrapping up my first visit to Palisade and Grand Junction, I can definitely say that I’ll be making a trip back again in the future.  Palisade hosts the Colorado Wine Festival every year in September, which looks like a ton of fun.  It’s a beautiful area of Colorado, with plenty to see and do for both kids and adults.

I’ll wrap this up with some random shots from the weekend.

Cheers!

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Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival 2012

Just got back from a full weekend up in the mountains.  Patti and I made the trip up to Breckenridge for their annual Spring Beer Festival.  It was our first time attending, but we had heard good things from friends who had attended in the past.  We headed up I-70 on Friday afternoon and took our time exploring some of the little mountain towns on the way.  We hit a few breweries along the way, including some old favorites as well as a few places that were completely new to us.  I’ll try to post some reviews later in the week.

We stayed in the quiet, resort town of Keystone, CO.  Keystone is just a short, 15-minute drive from Breckenridge, CO and turned out to be the perfect place to call home for a few days.  Hot tubs, no neighbors and no crowds.  It was just what we needed.  We’re not skiers, so we kind of prefer going up there in the off-season.  In our 5-story building, there were only 3 other cars in the garage.  Perfect!

We finished off our day with some bacon-wrapped filets and a bottle of Avery’s Uncle Jacob’s Stout.  Beer was delicious.  Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, sweet – but not overly sweet, 17.4% ABV is well hidden.  Surprisingly smooth at this point in its’ young life, but should age very well.  If you missed the release at Avery last weekend, keep your eyes peeled for the remaining bottles to start showing up around town soon.  Grab some while you can.

 

The Breckenridge area has a public transportation system that could rival New York City.  I couldn’t believe how many busses they offer to get you around town.  During the off-season, the Keystone area even has a bus that you can call to arrange pick up and drop off for personalized service.  It’s convenient and free.  To Breckenridge however, we caught the Swan Mountain Flyer.  This bus runs once an hour from Keystone and makes the loop into downtown Breckenridge.

We caught the 11:30 bus to head to the festival, which opened at noon.  We arrived in Breckenridge at around 12:10 and started our walk to Main Street Station.  Along the way, we ran into Jason, the head brewer over at Lone Tree Brewing.  Sadly, he wasn’t pouring any beers at the festival, but was just out enjoying a rare and well deserved day off with his girlfriend.

The festival offers both a standard tasting ticket, as well as a VIP ticket.  The standard ticket sells for $25 and offers admission, unlimited tastings and music.  The VIP ticket sells for $65 and comes with a commemorative stein, private buffet and lounge area, along with unlimited tastings and music.  Patti had found a deal online for more than half off VIP tickets, so we snagged a pair.  We got up to the festival entrance, traded our tickets for a map and stein and headed inside.

Once we got through the gate, the first table we came upon was Oskar Blues.  I had to get the day started off on the right foot, so I reached for a pour of Deviant Dale’s.  A great accompaniment to the band covering Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” in the background.

Main Street Station is surrounded by several buildings that are condo’s on top, with restaurants and stores on the main level.  Between the buildings is a large, open space, that’s used for different events throughout the year.  It’s a great area for a mid-sized beer festival.

Working around the outside edge of tables, were many out-of-state breweries, including Sierra Nevada, Widmer, Red Hook and Alaskan.

Towards the back were some of the smaller, local places.  A few of which I had never even tried like Bonfire (remember the Tebrew beer from last year’s Tebow mania?), Crazy Mountain and Palisade.  This was my favorite area of the festival.  The tables were situated along the river, with a beautiful mountain view in the background.  Lots of new beers to try, a great view and a whole row of bathrooms nearby.  Hey, you gotta know where your bathrooms are at a beer fest.  Good combination folks.

Back towards the middle of the festival were the big boys.  Avery, Odell, Great Divide, Bristol and more.  Great Divide tapped a keg of Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti at 2PM, which went well with the cooler, afternoon temperatures and the light snow that started coming down.

The VIP ticket also gave us access to a private buffet that was catered by Kenosha Steakhouse.  They brought some tasty BBQ for the meat lovers, plus some lighter sandwiches, wraps, appetizers, salad and even desert.  The lounge area had comfy couches and chairs, so festival attendees could sit down and enjoy their food.  There was even a table full of beers donated by the breweries.  I snagged a Dale’s Pale Ale to go with my plate of pulled pork.  As someone who was kind of on the fence about spending the extra money for VIP tickets, I’d have to say it was worth it.  Even if we had paid full price, the unlimited trips to the buffet, the quiet area to sit and eat, the big table full of beers and the private bathroom, made it all worthwhile.

25 breweries in total made the trip.  It was well balanced between novice, gateway Wheat and Pale Ales, up to big Double IPA’s and Stouts for the true beer nerds in the crowd.  I tried alot of new beers and discovered some new breweries that don’t distribute out my way.  Towards the end of the festival, I snagged a nearly full stein of Great Divide’s Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti and went to listen to the live bands on stage.

The clouds eventually started to roll in and the sun gave way to snow, but it only added to our experience.  You’ve got to expect snow in Breckenridge in Spring.  We made the walk back to the bus station and caught our ride home.

As much as I love the Great American Beer Festival, these little beer fests around the country are a great way to get out and truly appreciate the beer scene, without feeling too overwhelmed.  Nice and relaxing, not too big of a crowd, good music and plenty of good beer and food to go around.  I’d definitely give it a thumb’s up.

Breckenridge also hosts a Festival in Summer, which is coming up on Saturday, July 14th.  I would expect to see a much bigger crowd, but they run a good show.  It might be worth checking out.

Random pics from the festival:

Cheers!