Beer traveling is a new type of pilgrimage we make as adults, but the kid in us would love to go dinosaur hunting. Sure, time travel would be perfect, but failing that, visits to exciting paleontological sites and museums can be as exhilarating to the entire family as exploring a new brewery is to Mom and Dad. When it comes time to plan road trips this summer with the family, there are fortunately some locales that host both great beer culture and kid-friendly destinations where dinosaurs come to life.
This idea was inspired by friends known as the Travel Junkies who visited the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, UT, and posted pictures of their daughter being mauled by a Triceratops (replica) and then actually poring over freshly unearthed dinosaur fossils of a Typothorax (think monster armadillo). The look on her face mirrored that of my own as I pour back the remains of a newly discovered dynamite sour.
Here are three spots where ancient dinosaurs and contemporary beers spring to life, starting with Ogden and nearby SLC.
Salt Lake City, UT
The Mountain West is a hotbed of beer culture, and Mike Riedel, who blogs at UtahBeer.blogspot.com, offers up some of the fiercest specimens to devour during your visit to this northwest quadrant of the Four Corner states. Starting with downtown SLC’s six breweries and brewpubs, Riedel begins his tour at Desert Edge Brewery (273 Trolley Square; DesertEdgeBrewery.com). In the midst of this Mormon domain, who says LDS has to stand for Latter-day Saints? At this spacious brewpub in Trolley Square, it stands for Latter Day Stout, a rich yet dry Irish stout, meaning it fits into Utah’s 3.2 law (since 3.2 percent alcohol by weight equals 4 percent alcohol by volume). Anything stronger has to be bottled for off-premise consumption.
Riffing off the bedrock church of the region, Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter is the flagship of the state’s first craft brewery, founded in 1989 and named for the mountain range that comprises central Utah’s span of the Rocky Mountains. The beers are brewed and bottled under its joint venture with Squatters, whose brewpub is four blocks east of Desert Edge (147 W. Broadway; Squatters.com).
While you can sample across its range of draft offerings, from Provo Girl Pils to Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout, Riedel is a big fan of its 529 Oud Bruin, a Flanders-style brown ale that can only be procured in corked bottles at the pub. Why is it called 529? That’s how many days it ages with wild yeasts in barrels. Speaking of its barrel-aging program, Mike also recommends trying to track down a bottle of Switch Barrel Aged Ale, a Belgian-style witbier aged in port casks.
Walk out Squatters’ door and practically right into Red Rock Brewery’s (254 S. 200 West; RedRockBrewing.com). Established in 1994, this casual spot rocks the pub grub (people rave about the beer-battered onion rings). To wash down one of its wood-fired pizzas, Riedel suggests one of its higher-gravity beers it therefore has to package (using half-liter bottles), Bobcat Brown Ale.
Uinta (1722 Fremont Drive; UintaBrewing.com) runs a small brewhouse pub where its 32 beers are available on tap and big beers are sold by the bottle (for off-premise enjoyment). While the brewers do hops, they’re doing extraordinary things with dark beers such as Baba Black Lager, Labyrinth Black Ale, Dubhe Imperial Black IPA and a new one Riedel mentions: Sea Legs Baltic Porter.
Beer geeks beyond the Beehive State are already stuck on Epic Brewing (825 S. State St.; EpicBrewing.com), so it’s no wonder Riedel foams at the mouth thinking of its suds, like the newly released Brainless, a Belgo-IPA. Since the focus is on high-gravity beers and Utah state laws are written the way they are, visit the Tap-less Taproom, where, as mandated by law, if you order a panini or some food, you can sample beers like my personal favorite, Big Bad Baptist, an imperial stout made with cocoa nibs and coffee beans and aged in whiskey barrels.
Each batch of Big Bad Baptist is a little bit different, and the brewers have been known to source their tasty, caffeinated adjuncts from Millcreek Coffee Roasters (657 S. Main St.; MillCreekCoffee.com) run by the Brewster family and located just two blocks away. Riedel says that not only do the Brewsters make some mean java, but they also roast their own cacao and make a chocolate bar “that is 70 percent Ecuadorian Arriba Cacao that’s sprinkled with espresso roasted on premises. Pure heaven! No LDS involved with this stuff!”
Fitting for the state’s nickname, The Beerhive (128 S. Main St.) is a must, according to Riedel. Beer nerds come here to geek out, though the ambience is still laid-back. The beer menu is around 200-strong, mostly American craft brands, and you can also buy bottles to go. And when it comes time to sop it all up, head to Bruges Waffles and Frites (336 W. Broadway; BrugesWaffles.com). Both the Liege waffles and the frites are available with an array of condiments, such as Belgian chocolate sauce for the waffles and assorted savory dipping mayos for the better-than-fries. Go the gut-bomb route and order the Waffle Monster topped with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh strawberries or the protein fix of a Machine Gun sandwich made with merguez sausages and, yes, frites.
Of course, while you’re in the city named for the Great Salt Lake, burn off your beers and other treats on Antelope Island, the largest within the lake. There are 45 miles of hiking and biking trails, and you’re sure to catch a glimpse of the island’s 500 buffaloes.
Colorado Springs, CO
It feels as if Colorado Springs gets billed as nearby Denver’s kid sister, but it’s certainly got its own culture and beerwise has come into its own. Maybe it’s the thin air—it actually boasts an elevation higher than that of the Mile High City—and the fact that Pike’s Peak at over 14,000 feet keeps watch over the city. Local beer vivant Eric Steen, who blogs at FocusOnTheBeer.com and has created unique and expressive projects such as Beers Made By Walking as well as Art & Beer, does his part to keep the scene as fresh and interesting as the locally brewed beers he covers and inspires.
He starts the tour at Trinity Brewing (1466 Garden of the Gods Road W., #184; TrinityBrew.com), which, as the address implies, is just down the way from Garden of the Gods (GardenOfGods.com), a majestic, if not otherworldly, registered National Natural Landmark. Perfect for those on a dinosaur trip, the geological formations yield modern and ancient treasures including the discovery of the Theiophytalia kerri species of dinosaur.
More germane to beer hunters, Trinity makes about 30 different saisons per year, of which Three Flowers Saison is Steen’s favorite. (Exactly which flowers are used is a trade secret.) Steen also notes the brewers are well-known for their sour beers, including Brain of the Turtle and The Flavor, both imbued with sour cherries. It’s also wise to show up hungry. Steen salivates over Trinity’s “amazing bowl of mac ’n’ cheese with bacon or the bacon cone, which is like a bowl of fries but instead it’s with bacon, and the dipping bowl has maple syrup.”
Mike and Amanda Bristol launched Bristol Brewing (1647 S. Tejon; BristolBrewing.com) in 1994. While their core beers are good drinking and their Laughing Lab Scottish Ale brings home medals like it’s a Geiger counter, their Community Ales program not only accounts for great beers, but 100 percent of the proceeds from each beer goes to local nonprofit organizations.
Steen says Venetucci Pumpkin Ale warrants a two-hour line to get in and try a pint and pick up the allotment of just a few bottles, all while benefiting Venetucci Farms, part of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. And Piñon Nut Ale isn’t just a tasty brown ale, it’s a tasty pine nut brown ale with proceeds going to North Cheyenne Canyon State Park, which, as Steen points out, is one of the most beautiful parks in the region. He further brings it back to the dinosaur theme by offering, “There are a number of plants that exist in this little micro-ecosystem that are not found anywhere else along the front range. Hazelnut trees and wild sarsaparilla … grow there, and they are a remnant from the last ice age. Ice age/dinosaurs. Close enough.”
A fair jog to the east near Cimarron Hills, Rocky Mountain Brewery (625 Paonia St.) made a huge splash this past year at the World Beer Cup when owner Duane Lujan took home not one, but a pair of medals within the same Fruit Beer category. RMB took gold for Eat a Peach and silver for Da Yoopers, a cherry beer. Steen happily remarks that in addition to fruit beers, several dessert-oriented ales keep converting fans. Look for PB&J Sammich, S’mores, Thin Mint and the über popular line of pie beers (raspberry, apple, blueberry, etc.).
Phantom Canyon Brewing (2 E.Pikes Peak Ave.; PhantomCanyon.com) is a Wynkoop holding in a historic downtown building with a “beautiful and massive bar.” Steen appreciates that brewer Alan Stiles often “recreates historical British beers. He understands the beauty of cask ale and always has two on.” Don’t miss Zebulon’s Peated Porter or a rotator, usually a pale or India pale ale.
To get a taste of many mountain brews in one spot, head to the north end of town to check out Another Pint (13860 Gleneagle Drive; AnotherPint.net), formerly known as A Second Cup. You’ll find plenty of rare offerings among its 30 or so taps, and it’s a great place to find something from the new Pikes Peak Brewing (1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive in Monument, PikesPeakBrewing.com) located just a few miles north. Steen recommends heading there even if you have to do so from Denver, since its Elephant Rock IPA is well worth it (to say nothing of the amazing ales are coming out of the new barrel room). The fact that you can enjoy it on a patio looking out on the mountain range doesn’t hurt.
Also a short jog out of town and heading west toward the dinosaur center, Kinfolks (950 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs; KinfolksManitou.com) is a great bar for those who, in Steen’s words, “want to really get into the local spirit of a mountain town. It’s actually part bar, part mountain gear shop, so you can look for proper clothing for your hike while drinking a beer.” The coolest part is that it’s also a trail head for spectacular hiking around Pikes Peak and a fountain of music to check out local bands, all while offering “a handful of great rotating taps.”
And to bring the Colorado Springs experience full circle, Steen says that Front Range BBQ (2330 W. Colorado Ave., frbbq.com) is not to be missed. FRBBQ is situated in an old house but keeps things lively every Wednesday with bluegrass or folk bands or maybe some zydeco thrown in. Beer plays a vital role here (of course the BBQ is no slouch) and Steen points out it recently hosted a six-course beer, bacon breakfast.
At the end of the day, rest your weary dinosaur bones at The Mining Exchange hotel (8 S. Nevada Ave., 800-207-4421), a beautifully restored historic building as regarded for its grandeur as it is for its hospitality. The best part, though, may be that it’s stumbling distance—three blocks—from Phantom Canyon Brewing.
New Haven, CT
Yale University is best known for educating bright young minds, but it’s also home to Triceratops and other less-young bodies at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. And not for nothing. New Haven is one of the notorious birthplaces of the mighty hamburger (but not a Flintstonian Brontosaurus burger). In 1900, Louis Lassen founded Louis’ Lunch (263 Crown St., louislunch.com), where you can still get a burger as authentic as the one Lassen concocted. Over a century later, Louis’ great-grandson Jeff Lassen still makes sandwiches in the near-Jurassic style: the patty is cooked vertically in antique gas grills then placed between slices of toasted bread. (Bun schmun.) You want condiments? Don’t got ’em; go elsewhere. Want a brew? You’ll have to get an Iron Brew or White Birch Beer from Foxon Park, Connecticut’s family-run soft drink company since 1922.
Don’t worry, you won’t go dry in New Haven. Amity Wine & Spirit Co. (95 Amity Road; amitywines.com) stocks one of the largest selections in town. Bottles from Thomas Hooker (from up in Hartford with tours on Saturdays) are popular, especially when they include Liberator Doppelbock , a highly coveted beer. Come summer, look for Hooker’s Watermelon Ale.
Another one of the five packaging breweries in state is New England Brewing (7 Seldon St., Woodbridge; newenglandbrewing.com). Being a five-minute walk away from Amity all but assures that the freshest cans of Gandhi-Bot Double IPA (extremely hoppy and extremely popular) and, when available, trade-bait Imperial Stout Trooper bombers are found within Amity’s coolers.
Louis’ Lunch ensures this will forever be a burger town, and happily, the only thing that goes better with burgers than fries is beer. Located right around the corner from Louis’ Lunch downtown is Prime 16 (172 Temple St.; prime16.com) with a modern take, the Cowboy burger with Canadian bacon and a fried egg on top. Then there’s The Smoker, a burger with smoked gouda and smoked bacon. Get there Tuesdays through Fridays between 2 and 4 p.m. and they’re only five bucks. To wash it down, Prime 16 has 20 brews on tap to choose from, such as River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout brewed down in Jersey.
Directly across the street from Louis’ is the Brü Rm. at Bar (254 Crown St.; barnightclub.com) in case you need to take a break from burgers and get a great pizza pie. New Haven’s first brewpub’s Damn Good Stout lives up to its name. If you go, know in advance you can chill in the Front Room or heat things up on Bar’s dance floor.
It didn’t take long for The Cask Republic (179 Crown St.; TheCaskRepublic.com) to become one of the best beer destinations in town, since Christian Burns, who opened two Ginger Man pubs, is the man behind it. Offering 53 rotating taps each at the proper temperature, a cask engine and a bottle list 80-plus beers long, this is the spot to earn your elbow patches on your beery sports jacket.
A short seven-mile drive due north you’ll find MiKro (3000 Whitney Ave., Hamden; mikrobeerbar.com) boasting 18 rotating taps stocking national, regional and local craft beer. This includes beers from Cavalry Brewing (115 Hurley Road in Oxford; CavalryBrewing.com), located a jog to the west. The Mikro Burger comes on a brioche bun with Vermont cheddar and pickled green tomatoes.
Of course, back in New Haven, why spend the whole time cooped up indoors? Take time for a little al fresco dining—bring a picnic up to East Rock Park and enjoy the view overlooking the city and harbor and even, on a clear day, out to Long Island.
As for where to stay, being the hometown of Yale, put yourself up at The Study at Yale (1157 Chapel St.; studyhotels.com). Rates start at just over $200 a night, and the entire boutique hotel is eruditely centered on the themes of literature, art and music just a bottle cap’s throw from campus.
For some morning brain food, enjoy a healthy walk up State Street to The Pantry (2 Mechanic St.), where savory dishes like the Salmon Benedict and sweeter ones like the blueberry pancakes have locals queuing up early.
Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey.