The benefit of these bars is that if you get a room in either of these hotels, which are among the most popular in town, you don’t have to worry about the hike back to your room. Therein lies the only downside to booking a room at the Shooting Star Inn (but Taylor’s optional dinner followed by a private concert―yes, he’s a musician, too―and his breakfast more than make it worthwhile.)
Come morning, when it’s time to revive and attack the day, if you’re looking for a quick perk and nibble, I love Macy’s European Coffee House (14 S. Beaver St.) across from the brewery. They roast their own coffee and the bakery is sinfully right on target. But for the full on greasy spoon experience, Taylor will point you to a quaint spot a block away, MartAnne’s (10 N. San Francisco St.) and in fact, grab your coffee from Macy’s anyway because when they serve it at MartAnne’s, it’s weak. The Mexican breakfasts are “to die for,” and Taylor usually gets the green chili plate with eggs and tortillas. “A mountain of food for a reasonable price.”
In Colorado’s southwest corner, also known as part of the Four Corners area, Durango is a true outdoorsman’s paradise where you can ride just about everything with plenty of vertical. Situated in the Animas River Valley within the San Juan Mountains, itﾕs a beautiful place to visit even for the non-adventurers. Just don’t miss out on the nearby Mesa Verde National Park which has guided hikes of jaw-dropping cliff drawings carved into the mountainsides by the Pueblos roughly 800 years ago. No wonder itﾕs an UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a lark, ask the guide where the craft brewery was located.
In modern times, Durango has amassed four craft breweries (not counting the half a dozen in neighboring towns such as Cortez, Dolores and Silverton), starting with Ska Brewing (545 Turner Drive). Formed in 1995 and today producing around 12,000 barrels annually, it was built on the love of two concepts: homebrewing and ska music. The themes permeate the character of the beer to this day, often releasing beers in their Local Series that are created by area homebrewers or tied into their hometown spirit.
Chuck Slothower, who blogs at Beer at 6512 (beerat6512.blogspot.com, which refers to Durango’s base elevation), praises their Modus Hoperandi IPA. “one year of existence it has become their best-selling beer. It’s very aggressively hopped,” says Slothower. He’s also a big fan of the Local Series. “Now, it’s Saison Du’Rango. I loved the Orange Cream Stout. It was based on Ska’s Steel Toe Stout, with a little orange peel added.” Steel Toe is just one of Ska’s many GABF medalists.
At Steamworks (801 E. 2ndAve.), locals have noticed a vast improvement in the deliciousness of the food―available to enjoy al fresco on their deck. Slothower likes their Colorado Kolsch “the pizza topped by local Sunnyside Meats ain’t bad either.”
Durango Brewing (3000 Main Ave.) is the third production brewery with a tap room that serves nothing but their beers and maybe some pretzels. Their Dark Lager session beer was just adorned with World Beer Cup silver.
And last but not least, Carver Brewpub (1022 Main Ave.) is the oldest (1988) and smallest (1,000 barrels) in town. But it has a kitchen so mean, even carnivores devour their vegetarian chili. Slothower credits Erik Maxson and his frequently rotating beers that include a coffee or oatmeal stout, an imperial pilsner, or raspberry wheat, which, according to manager Aaron Seitz, is brewed with $800 worth of berries per seven-barrel batch. Can you say tart?!
In case you’re traveling with kids or simply don’t want to drink too much at high altitude, a fun stop is Zuberfizz (742½ Main Ave.), a craft soda company started by Banden Zuber. It’s located behind a parking lot, above a hair salon and the entrance is in a back alley, but once inside, the chance to see a craft soda company that looks and feels like a craft brewery is a tasty treat where, instead of a chocolate stout, you can get a Coco Fizz pop.
For lunch or dinner to go with your beer, visitors cannot miss Lady Falconburgh’s (640 Main Ave.). Serving hearty mountain meals befitting their 38 taps, the list is heavy on southern Colorado brewers but the northern ones get some love, too. Slothower points out that “Lady Falc’s has two-dollar pint nights Mondays and Thursdays, but it gets incredibly packed with college students at those times. Go in the afternoon if you want to avoid the crowds.”
Speaking of avoiding crowds, when it comes to lodging, the biggest name in town is the grand, Western-style Strater Hotel (699 Main Ave.) for those who like a little more elegance, but if you’re super low-maintenance and don’t want anybody crowding you―not even somebody behind the reception desk―book one of the four rooms at cozy Nobody’s Inn (920 Main Ave.). You literally won’t encounter a single employee, meaning no valet or bell hop to tip, no housekeeping and no beating the prices (as low as $119 in the winter and only up to $199 for a large room in the summer). And the owner also owns the Irish Embassy Pub next door.
When you wake up, fill up at Oscar’s (18 Town Plaza) that offers comfort food galore including hash browns and eggs smothered in chili verde. After all, whether you work up a thirst hiking or river rafting near downtown or cruise the Million Dollar Highway up to Silverton and Ouray (both home to great small breweries), this is one mountain town that requires exerting lots of energy.