Woodland Park Wanderings

As you may gathered 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.

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

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 was 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…

BierWerks 07-2013 (2)

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 awaiting 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)

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 didn’t quite do it for us. That’s not to say it’s not amazing beer, it’s just not our favorite style of beer. It certainly didn’t help that it was the last stop after so many other brews, so take that into account. We first sampled the Tripple Double IPA they had on draft, and the notes we took pretty accurately described it as “all funked up.” Yep, this was one funky smelling beer. The flavor wasn’t bad, but it was hard to get past the aroma, which was a bit mildewy, like an old dishrag. We just couldn’t do it. Instead we decided on the other beer on tap, the Oaked American Red, which was much better. It had a slightly sour aroma, with a tart flavor that was pretty nice. I would have loved to have tried some of their bottled beers, since most of their brews are in bombers so there was a lot less variety on tap, but after a long day of tasting it just wasn’t happening this time. We will be back. Paradox has a great barrel room and we will be happy to visit again to try more next time.

By the time we were wrapping up at Paradox we were a little slap-happy, as evidenced by this serious of totally adorkable photos. Yeah, once this started it was clear that it was time to sober up and head home.

 

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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!