Vail Valley breweries tap their kegs for the summer season
One of the great things about Colorado craft brews is that they can often be enjoyed under a blue blanket of sunny skies. The Vail Valley has some top-tier beer, quenching the end of an epic day spent cruising beneath the aspen trees or coasting on the rapids of the river.
While the local, regional and national brew scene continues to flow, keep an eye on these five Vail Valley breweries as they keep everyone hydrated with hops.
Vail Brewing Company
The valley’s newest craft brewery is Vail Brewing Company, and co-owner Garrett Scahill says, “it’s been a long time coming.”
“There was nothing from Edwards until Buena Vista or Frisco, so we want to capture that Vail market,” says Scahill. “EagleVail is a great spot, but I think it needed something.”
When the original idea of building a brewery in Minturn didn’t unfold for Scahill, the Vail Brewing Company was born with a high-profile name and a high-traffic location—look for the branded silo you can see in EagleVail from I-70.
Even as a graduate from the World Brewing Academy in Chicago, Scahill says that creating the artisan ales and ironing out all the details for the new venture was a big learning experience for him and co-owner Scott Harrison.
“It always takes longer and costs twice as much as you expect,” says Scahill. “Everyone has been really helpful, and we really appreciate it. They’ve been helping with any questions we have about getting started, and helping us by giving us excess hops that they have.”
The new tasting room faces directly west, so it’s a perfect lounge spot for summer sunsets. The large garage doors make it easy to bring the outside in.
“We aren’t looking to grow as big as possible,” he adds. “To start, we want to grow slowly and create small-batch beer that’s quality. We want to make the best beer we can, we want people to come in and enjoy it.”
7 Hermits Brewing
It seems like 7 Hermits Brewing in Eagle was started to fuel and “hydrate” mountain bikers, because that’s exactly what it does. The brewery serves handcrafted beer, as well as cocktails, wine and food. It sits right at the base of the 7 Hermits mountain range, where droves of mountain bikers make tire marks every day from April through November.
A lot of the beers are named after nearby mountain bike trails, like “Itch” — an IPA, and “Scratch” — an imperial IPA.
“I started when I was really young with my dad,” says Matt Marple, co-owner and brewmaster. “His friend brewed and made wine all the time. He was always making stuff in his basement and I was really curious about it.”
Marple says the more he watched, the more he learned, but it wasn’t until the Wine or Wort Home Brew Supply store opened down the road in Gypsum that he impulsively bought $1,500 in home brewing equipment.
“Everyone in the neighborhood would come over,” Marple says of his two years spent brewing from his home. “They were my guinea pigs.”
He’s a self-proclaimed “hop head,” so every beer he makes is hop-forward. “I’m allergic to yeast,” Marple admits
“That is why I started making beer the way I do,” he explains. “I use yeast that drops off almost entirely. The beers that I make are exceptionally clean; I focus more on the style of the maltiness and hopiness.”
Crazy Mountain Brewing Company
Crazy Mountain Brewing poured its first beer at the Big Beers Festival in Vail at the beginning of 2010. The tasting room opened in October of that year, and the brewery began distributing around the state in 2011.
“Now, we distribute to 18 states and five countries — 15 percent of our sales come from export,” says Kevin Selvy, CEO and brewmaster of the establishment in Edwards. “For as small of a space as we are in, we pump a lot of beer out the door.”
Selvy and his wife, Marisa, started Crazy Mountain together; and five years later they‘ve grown to about 40 employees.
“I knew all along that I wanted to open a brewery,” Selvy says. “I started brewing at home, and then I made my way to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco with some of my recipes.”
Selvey worked in San Francisco for four-and-a-half years, and says that he spent that time planning his business and developing his recipes. “When I felt [the recipes] were where they needed to be, I set out and to find investors,” he says.
Currently, there are nine year-round brews and a seasonal one that rotates, so there are ten core Crazy Mountain Brews.
“There are also a lot of beers that we brew once a year,” says Selvy, “and we are constantly brewing batches that come out only once.”
Co-founder of Bonfire Brewing, Andy Jessen, is known as the “Master of Minutiae” for the Eagle-born company, founded in 2010 by Jessen and his roommate at the time, Matthew Wirtz.
“The company has since grown by over 500 percent, now employing eight full-time individuals and producing thousands of barrels of beer each year,” explains Jessen.
As a dog-friendly and relaxed atmosphere, Bonfire’s taproom on Second Street in Eagle has become a community gathering place. Jessen says it allows for good casual gatherings and even business get-togethers.
“Customers stop in before and after meetings, or simply host their meetings at the tap room to begin with,” he says.
The first beers Bonfire produced were the Firestarter Pale Ale and the Demshitz Brown, and Jessen says they remain best sellers to this day.
“The Brush Creek Blonde isn’t far behind,” he adds. “The Great American Beer Festival silver medal winner “Glutart” — a raspberry gluten-free ale — is also gaining steam.”
Gore Range Brewery
The first brewery in the Vail Valley is the kind of place where you want to have your own mug to return to time after time, because it’s a definitely a go-to watering hole for locals.
“The Mug Club has been a large part of creating a community feel at our bar,” says Jeremy Pluck, brewmaster of Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. “People join with their friends, family and neighbors assured that this will be the place to meet up and know that they will know others at the bar, whether they planned to meet up with or not.”
Pluck has been brewing at Gore Range since it was established in 1997. The brewery and restaurant was taken over by new ownership four years ago, which Pluck says has a very positive difference.
Gore Range is known for its three year-round beers: GRB Lager, Powder Pale and Fly Fisher Red.
“We have several seasonal selections that create quite a stir when they are tapped,” he shares. “Discombobulation – a Belgium Trippel, specialty IPAs, a Belgian saison and seasonal stouts.”
There are always three to five specialty beers on tap at the brewery, and this summer will bring a whole array of awaited brews.
Clearly, there’s no shortage of places to get ‘hoppy’ this summer. So enjoy the long days, hot sun and find your favorite brew.