Colorado beer has thrived in this setting. Crested Butte’s two brewpubs are virtually across the street from each other and housed in buildings put up after the entire village area was designated a National Historic District in 1974. While they aren’t old, they fit right in.
Crested Butte/Idlespur is built from rough-hewn timber and decorated with animal mounts. A giant mountain lion looms above the massive stone fireplace at one end of the dining area.
The brewpub is a sprawling southwestern lodge, with brewing equipment right behind the bar (no glass walls here) and a music area with couches toward the back. It’s a place for skiers who take a shower and get dressed up before dinner, where you might spend $30-plus for an entrée such as the 12-ounce filet or elk medallions. Starters include game sausage, char-grilled quail and smoked trout.
Crested Butte’s beers, most particularly Red Lady and White Buffalo Peace Ale, have won many awards. When Buffalo Peace Ale captured gold at the 1997 Great American Beer Festival, actor Tom Skerritt (one of the owners) happily collected the medal. Its beers are also contract brewed for bottle distribution by Broadway Brewing Co. in Denver.
The Eldo, which began brewing in 1998, is newer. Although the two-story building looks like it could have been a saloon in the 1800s, it was built as a Mexican restaurant in 1976. The bar is upstairs, with a balcony overlooking Elk Avenue and a music room in back. Teri’s Kitchen, really just a grill area between the bar and a music/pool room in back, serves up a limited menu, but the Eldo is foremost a bar.
It’s rougher around the edges than the Idlespur, attracting plenty of locals and a young crowd for the music. Beer stuff decorates the walls, including a very nice tin sign that looks like a six-pack of Pabst. Oval-shaped copper plates on the front of the bar show the wear of customers’ boots.
The beer on offer reflects the difference between the two brewpubs. Both have excellent choices, but the Eldo’s are more like the rowdy uncle your parents don’t want to you grow up like. In January, the line-up included a substantial imperial stout that doesn’t hide that it is brewed with licorice and an appropriately warming winter warmer. The Eldo also serves a number of Colorado beers in bottles, and has Paulaner Salvator and Pilsner Urquell on tap.
Specialty beer is just as easy to find up at Mount Crested Butte. The restaurant-bars that flank the ski basin all serve a variety of beer on tap, plenty of micros and usually Colorado beers. At the Swiss Chalet a few blocks away, the decorations, food and beer are all German, with five Paulaner beers and Budweiser occupying the six taps on the ceramic Paulaner tower at the bar.
The modern resort area, which even has a Club Med, is not exactly Victorian, but then, we’ve never heard stories about Butch Cassidy skiing.