Woodland Park Wanderings

As you may gather by our increased posts, the past few weeks have been immensely fun and extremely busy. On Sunday morning we awoke to find that we had no plans! The family visitors were already on the road, and the calendar was blank. What a blessing! We decided to take a little time off for ourselves and enjoy a little free time together. We took the top off the Wrangler and hit the road heading south with no particular destination.

Wandering Our Way to Woodland Park

It’s easy when you live in Castle Rock and work in Denver to forget about all the fun stuff there is to do just south of us in the Colorado Springs area. While my cousin Geoff was in town we made the trip to Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, and I remembered just how much there is to do in The Springs. After taking the long route down Highway 83 up towards the Air Force Academy, we finally ended up in Old Colorado City, a national historic district within Colorado Springs. With cute shops, parks and several bars and restaurants, this was the perfect place to begin wasting away our Sunday afternoon. We had lunch at Thunder and Buttons, because with a name like Thunder and Buttons, we knew there had to be a story. There was, and after hearing about the wild and crazy history of this bar we stuck around for some elk chili nachos and a few pints of New Belgium Brewery’s Rolle Bolle. Before too long we had devised a plan to visit a few more local breweries just down the road in Woodland Park, and off we went…

Elk Chili Nachos at Thunder and Buttons
Elk Chili Nachos at Thunder and Buttons

The drive to Woodland Park is breathtaking. Called the “City Above the Clouds,” you have Pikes Peak to your left, and Garden of the Gods to your Right. Just 17 miles from Colorado Springs, Woodland Park is surrounded by the one million acres of the Pike National Forest. If you blink you may even miss the town of Bust, Colorado, which claims to be Colorado’s newest and smallest town (population 2!). And while Woodland Park may not be huge, they are home to three breweries: BierWerks Brewery, Paradox Beer Company, and Ute Pass Brewing.

CSprings 07-2013

BierWerks Brewery

First stop was at BierWerks Brewery, and it was love at first sight. Open and welcoming, BierWerks immediately felt like the right place to spend a summer afternoon. Their taproom was small and fitted with all the décor of a German beer hall, including a plethora of steins hanging above our heads. The beers were mostly Bavarian styles, though they did also offer some Pale Ales and IPAs. The patio was hopping, with a band playing… well, let’s call it jazz. They had a banjo player, upright bass, clarinet, and singer, and played a bit of everything. We settled in on the busy patio with a few cold beers. First was a Manitou Springs Spring Water, an American Pale Ale. Just hoppy enough at 45 IBUs, this was the perfect patio beer. We also had a Hop Monster IPA, which has had a much more pronounced hop aroma and flavor, but wasn’t too scary at 68 IBUs. It was also delicious. In retrospect, we probably should have tried a Bavarian brew, but now I guess we have a reason to return. Next time we’ll also try some food. They have pretzels and cheeses at the brewery and during the weekend a few food truck options. Phil’s Pig Out BBQ is usually around on weekends, and during our visit, they also had The Pizza Gypsy on site. Next time…

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Ute Pass Brewing

Next up was Ute Pass Brewing. Just across the street from BierWerks we walked over to their bar only to learn that they don’t actually brew their own beers yet. Doh! We learned that the equipment is all purchased and waiting for installation, but the permits are still pending. On the wall, you could see the floor plans for the brewery but for today, there would be not Ute Pass beers. Never fear, because Ute Pass Brewing has several other great Colorado craft beers available. It was a Ska True Blonde for me, and a Pikes Peak Red Lager for Jeff. We didn’t order food but saw lots of plates coming out of the kitchen and it all looked good. We’ll save dining here for when we can pair our meals with a Ute Pass beer.

Ute Pass Brewing 07-2013 (1)

Paradox Beer Company

Last stop in Woodland Park was for Paradox Beer Company. The Paradox Beer website claims that they take “Wayward Beers, unruly at best, and Bound them in the confines of Experienced Oak in the hopes that the sum would be greater than the parts… A lofty goal!” Indeed! Although barrel aged beers aren’t exactly our first choice for brews, we know they are really adored by the cool kids (beer geeks) in the craft beer crowd, so why not give them a go. Besides, in researching the breweries while on the road, we learned that the same geniuses who started BierWerks back in 2010, Jeff Aragon and Brian Horton, were the mad scientists creating these barrel-aged, bottle-conditioned beers at Paradox Beer Company. Certainly, these guys know great beer!

Paradox Beer Co 07-2013 (6)

Unfortunately, Paradox mostly offered funky, sour beers, which aren’t exactly our style. That’s not to say the beer isn’t amazing, but being outside of our comfort zone we just didn’t sample much. Since this was our last stop after quite a bit of tasting, so it was probably for the best. We did sample the Tripple Double IPA, a delicious funked-up IPA. It tasted pretty good, but the funky aroma wasn’t really our thing. Instead, we favored the Oaked American Red. The aroma was only slightly sour, with a pleasant tart flavor.

Paradox Beer Company had several great sounding bombers of beer, but we’d been sampling too much to commit to drinking a bomber. Maybe next time we’ll plan better and make this our first stop. Instead of more beers, we nursed the ones we had and drank lots of water. We also took a lot of totally adorkable selfies, which will only confirm that it was time to slow down on the craft beers…

Overall, our lazy Sunday became a brewery hopping extravaganza in Woodland Park. Apparently, that’s how we roll. When left to our own devices, we turn to beer. Once again lack of any planning made for a day we couldn’t have planned if we tried. Those are just the best days ever. We look forward to visiting Woodland Park again, not just for the beer, but for a day of exploring the beauty of the area. Followed by beer.

Cheers!

More Photos from our Woodland Park Wanderings