On the way home from our recent Salida road trip, we decided to do some exploring. One of our stops was in Florence, where we checked out Florence Brewing Company. But before we made it to the brewery, we made a quick stop and did some time in Canon City at the Museum of Colorado Prisons. Read on to learn about our time behind bars, and our escape to Florence Brewing Co.
Highway 50 Drive
We drove home along Highway 50, a long and winding mountain road that hugs the Arkansas River from Salida to Canon City. The drive was beautiful and peaceful. It was so nice, we only occasionally worried about a giant rock breaking loose and sliding down the hillside to crush us. Are we the only ones with that particular fear? Outside of Denver’s Blake Street, those “Falling Rock” signs can sometimes make us (particularly, me) a bit nervous. However it was totally worth the imaginary risk to enjoy the beautiful drive.
Much of the land here is owned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, so we passed several great places to hike, camp, and fish. Whitewater rafting is also popular in this area, and as you near Canon City the number of rafts bobbing up and down on the river steadily increased. Someday we’d love to make our trip down the river on a raft. However this time we were on a schedule, so we mostly stayed on course. We did venture down a few off-road paths and made note of what areas we need to explore next time, when we have more time for adventure.
Canon City Excursion: Museum of Colorado Prisons
In Canon City the river and the road part ways. This felt like a good time to stretch our legs and do something touristy. Canon City is in Fremont County, Colorado, which has the unique distinction of being home to 15 prisons. When we passed through town last time we saw they had a museum, so we decided to check it out. The Museum of Colorado Prisons in Canon City is just $8 each for adults, and it seemed like an interesting excuse to get out of the car for a bit.
The Museum of Colorado Prisons is housed in the original Women’s Correctional Facility building built in 1935. It’s next to the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, a medium security prison originally built in 1871. While the mens prison remains active, the women’s facility closed in 1968 when a larger women’s prison was built to take it’s place. Now it’s a museum, home to exhibits that provide a glimpse into the history of the entire Colorado Prison System from 1871 to the present.
We arrived with no idea what we’d find behind the prison walls. Inside the 30-cell facility was smaller than we expected, but there were lots of stories packed into the space. There exhibits helped show a day in the life of the women who were incarcerated there, and so much more. There were tons of documents, photographs, and plenty of historical artifacts – some more disturbing than others. Overall it was a stark and sometimes harsh reminder that serious crime has serious consequences. We left feeling very somber and a little sad. Prison life, particularly in the very early days, was rough for all involved. At times it was impossible not to empathize with the prisoners, as well as the prison workers, and the many people affected by each crime and incarceration.
We’re glad we checked out the Museum of Colorado Prisons. We were even happier we got to leave. It was definitely time for a drink.
Florence Brewing Company
We escaped the prison and made our way to Florence, Colorado, and the Florence Brewing Company. Florence Brewing Co opened May 2016 in downtown Florence. If you aren’t familiar with Florence, you aren’t alone. There’s even a blog post on the Florence Brewing Co webpage to help deal with the question, “Where the F*** is Florence?” If you haven’t been there, you should make the trip. It’s a cute town filled with charming antique shops, a few cute restaurants, and a pretty damn good brewery.
Florence Brewing Company is just a block off Main Street in downtown Florence. It’s near the old train terminal (now a senior center) and across the street from the Florence Pioneer Museum. Their 5-barrel brewery and taproom are in a historic 1913 building that bears the sign for the Florence Citizen newspaper. Inside, it’s clearly all about community. There were plenty of picnic tables to be shared, and both kids and dogs are welcome to hang out while their parents enjoy a pint. Our bartender Brandon seemed to be kept pretty busy with the late afternoon rush, but was never too busy for a quick chat. He was super friendly and welcoming.
Since we were just passing through, we thought the best bang for our buck would be the taster trays. We ordered tasters of all 8 beers, and after some sampling we can tell you there wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch. These were well made, traditional beers, and we had a tough time picking a favorite. The Mike PA was a great, citrusy IPA that we both really loved. The King Coal Stout, served on nitro, was creamy, sweet and crazy-delicious. The German beers were particularly great, including the Alpine Loop Hefeweizen and the Special K Kolsch. So don’t make us pick a favorite, it can’t be done.
If you don’t live in Fremont County, Florence is probably a bit of a drive. That’s why it’s great that they sell crowlers to go, so you can sample a few brews and take the ones you like best home with you. If you need a snack, they have popcorn, or you can buy some fresh pork rinds. The pork rinds come out hot in a paper sack and smelled delicious. For something more substantial there are several nearby restaurants, including at least one, Papa’s Restaurant, that delivers and that we can confirm makes some mighty tasty pizza.
In short, the open sign on the door at Florence Brewing Company says it all: “COME IN, WE’RE OPEN AND AWESOME.” We hope that if you make a trip down to Colorado’s Fremont County, you go check them out.
About Florence Brewing Co
Florence Brewing Company is one of only two breweries in Fremont County, and the only brewery in Florence. Their taproom is open daily from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you pay them a visit, let us know what you think.
Florence Brewing Company
200 S. Pikes Peak Ave.
Florence, Co 81226