Local Brews & Spirits
Beer and Spirits Made Right Here in Ouray
Ouray County may just be home to the most craft brewers and distillers per capita in the state of Colorado with three craft breweries and two distilleries in a county of 4,500 people. We think there’s something in the water here, literally. Our fresh, clean mountain spring water is some of the best in the state and is the core component to all of our local beverages. The locals are craft brews connoisseurs, and getting a local’s opinion on the best beer or cocktail in town is a lively conversation that we encourage every visitor to have.
Our brewers and distillers are passionate about their craft and all produce at their physical location. Make sure to take a tour, ask about mash or bottling day opportunities and definitely ask what goes into your drink. All of them pride themselves on the local quality of their beverages (and food) and are happy to tell you the provenance of their grains, hops and corn, which are tied in tightly with our southwestern Colorado agriculture.
Don’t forget to sample the delicious beverages, too! Our local bar culture is friendly and unique and you’ll love spending time with the locals. If you need something to go, the breweries offer everything from the traditional glass growler to hydroflasks, “growlettes” and “Cowboy Cans.” Most of our liquor stores have a great selection of local liquid treats in their coolers and on their shelves.
If you’re traveling a little farther afield, don’t miss Garrett Estate Cellars tucked among the vineyards and farms of Olathe, about an hour north of Ouray. While Olathe has long been known for its iconic summer sweet corn, some exceptional wines are produced here, as well as fantastic fruit, delicious cheeses and hops for our local breweries. You’ll pass all of these producers on your way out to the vineyard and it’s a very worthwhile day trip.
Here’s a little overview of our local brewing culture and some profiles of our local producers:
Colorado Boy Brewery
Colorado Boy is Ouray County’s original brewery and home base is still a tiny pub in a historic building on the corner of Clinton and Lena Streets in Ridgway. Don’t let the small size fool you, Colorado Boy owner Tom Henessey is a local brewing legend and has trained many brewers across the western slope. The brewery produces award-winning beer and runs a very green operation with wind-powered electricity, hot water from solar collectors on the roof, waste heat from the refrigerators warm the space in the winter, and spent grain and yeast go back to the local agriculture scene as feed for livestock. The locally-sourced, artisan pizza they serve out of a tiny kitchen is almost as famous as the beer and the friendly service and intimate atmosphere are part of the brewery’s mission statement.
If Ouray County’s famous ales inspire you to start a brewery of your own, consider taking one of Henessey’s popular “brewery immersion courses” or read one of his tomes on becoming a brewer, coffee house owner or restauranteur.
The Ouray Brewery is just what its name implies - Ouray’s friendly, expansive cornerstone brewery and pub. The building speaks to Ouray’s history – it was the former location of the Ouray County Plaindealer - and its décor reflects the fun, outdoor- and family-friendly culture of Ouray. The expansive third floor deck offers spectacular 360-degree views of town and the mountains, and is arguably the best spot to watch the famous Fourth of July water fights. With four core brews and a selection of seasonal beers always on tap, the brewery invites you pull up a swing (yes, their barstools are actually swings) and sample your way through a tasty flight. A full restaurant serves fresh takes on pub food and features in-season specials.
In 2014, the brewery moved its brew operation into the space next door to the pub, shortening the beer commute from ten blocks to just a few feet and putting the brewing production right in view of their patrons and a fantastic brewing process mural covers the upper walls of the new space. Taking the local theme to the next level, their shiny new brewing kettles are also locally produced by Rocky Mountain Vessels out of Montrose.
K.J. Wood Distillers
K.J. Wood Distillers will be the newest addition to Ouray’s Main Street and craft beverage culture. The distillery, which started in Berthoud, Colorado, is the manifestation of owner K John Wood’s dream of fine craft beverages and longstanding passion for local producers, homebrewing and winemaking. The distillery fired up in 2013 and is known for its Colorado whiskey, clean vodka and heritage gin recipes.
Using the glacial water of Berthoud and now Ouray’s clean spring water, John creates refined spirits blended with the finest local barley and blue corn for the whiskey and the rarest European juniper berries paired with spices from the Silk Road. Once the move to Ouray is complete, the blue corn will be produced in partnership with the Southern Ute Tribe in southwest Colorado. The distillery believes strongly in the development of craft Colorado Blue Corn Whiskey, and is developing a Barrel Society for whiskey connoisseurs to build and explore this 100% Colorado-made whiskey.
In addition to the tasting room, production facility and barrel storage, the distillery will feature a small-plates restaurant with a seasonal menu and cocktails. The new building broke ground next to Alpine Bank in the spring of 2015 and the Backstreet Bistro on 7th Avenue will act as a temporary tasting room for their vodka, white and aged whiskeys and gin during the summer of 2015.
Ourayle House Brewery
If there were such a thing as an auteur in the brewery world, the owner, brewer and bartender at the Ourayle House Brewery, also known as the Mr. Grumpypants Brewing Company, would certainly fit the bill. This little spot on Main Street in Ouray has a definite personality that is all its own and is the local outdoor set’s favorite spot for a big mug of delicious ale after a long day of adventures.
Its manifesto speaks for itself: “We're a simple brewery that few people have ever heard of, and even fewer can seem to pronounce. Snuggled somewhere in the spectacular high country of the Colorado San Juan Mountains, we brew by the single barrel. We make do with what little we have and make beer with even less. Thus, our beers are continuously changing. Not only seasonally but, sometimes whether we mean to or not. We don't have a mission statement, a marketing campaign, and on occasion, even a clue. We're not interested in being trendy or the newest advertising gimmick. We do however - whenever available - use all natural local ingredients and take pride in our brewing process and even in our decorating, which makes us and our beer a progeny of nature, and she can be a fickle mother. We live, work, and brew where we vacation, and at times we vacation on work days instead. We try our best, sometimes with little success, but we do keep trying, and we are here; be it by luck, by fate, by fortune or choice, in where we honestly believe is the place that we are destined to be. We're just not sure why yet. So until then…Eins…Zwei…Drei…Suffa!”
Trail Town Still
Located in a spot that seems to always be at the end of a rainbow after a storm, the charming Trail Town Still is another favorite locals’ haunt for good whiskey, great music and home smoked barbeque right off the porch. “Doc” Joe Alaimo, owner, distiller and often barkeep, has been distilling award-winning vodka, whiskey, rum and agave for the past three years in this western-inspired spot just east of the highway in Ridgway. Don’t let the hand-printed labels and Bordeaux bottles fool you, these are tasty, high quality spirits produced by a distiller with an eye for detail: they actually purchased their own mill to mill the corn to their specifications right next to the mash tun. In addition to fun spins on classic cocktails like the “Bloody Maria,” seasonality is the shining star in the distillery - their watermelon mojito is a must-have on a hot summer day when the Green River watermelons are in season from just-across-the-border in Utah.