Unlike the streets of downtown Denver where there’s a brewery on every corner, smaller cities and towns typically have a more limited selection of places to grab an after-work pint – which isn’t a bad thing by any means. Quantity is exchanged for quality in these places. A brewery becomes more than just a brewery: it becomes the brewery. A place for people to gather, vent, laugh, and of course drink. The brewery has long acted as a site of organic community building and nowhere is that truer than at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company (SLV Brewing Co.) in Alamosa.
Located right on the main drag, SLV Brewing Co. is a central family business to the Alamosa community. Owners Scott and Angie Graber opened the brewery back in 2006 with their parents. Working closely with local designer, Kris Gosar, the Grabers renovated the historic San Juan Building on Main Street into a brewpub – the first in the San Luis Valley. The result is a space that is inviting for everyone: consistent with the historical roots of the region so as not to appear out of place to longtime locals, yet modern enough to attract the younger college crowd.
Quality is key when it comes to the product at SLV Brewing. The Grabers brew their signature craft beers right on the premises using water from the Rio Grande River Basin and locally sourced hops and barley. Their 7-barrel brewing system can produce upwards of 200 gallons of beer per brew.
The brewery boasts a broad selection of seasonal beers, as well as six staple beers that are available year-round. For example, the “Alamosa Amber:” a balanced, caramel-y amber ale that is a safe bet for those who prefer to order from the easy-drinking section of the menu.
The “Ol’ 169 Oatmeal Stout” is another SLV Brewing Co. classic that is a dedication to Alamosa’s history as a railroad town, and the retired Denver and Rio Grande Railroad locomotive 169 that is on display at Alamosa’s Cole Park.
The 10-wheeler narrow-gauge steam engine is one of only two surviving locomotives from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad’s T-12 series that was retired by the railroad in the early 1930s. Numbers 168 in Colorado Springs and 169 in Alamosa are the only of the series that weren’t destroyed. A volunteer group in Alamosa called “Friends of the 169” is committed to restoring the train and seeing it up and running again.
As a self-proclaimed green chile beer connoisseur myself, the “Valle Caliente” caught my eye. This particular brew is a variation of another of the brewery’s classics: the “Valle Especial” – a Mexican-style lager that previously won a silver medal at the Colorado State Fair International Brewing Competition and a bronze medal at Craft Lager Festival in Manitou Springs. The “Valle Especial” is soaked on hatch green chile to achieve the added heat and individual flavor of the “Caliente.”
SLV Brewing Co. also serves food alongside their authentic beer. Their full food menu includes everything from street tacos to craft burgers and sandwiches to more gourmet entrees such as rib eye steak, chicken cordon bleu, and Colorado stream trout. You don’t want to pass up dessert either. I’m talking homemade bread pudding, a root beer float made with in-house brewed root beer, or the chocolate stout brownie sundae.
In 2014, SLV Brewing Co. opened Roast-Craft Coffee and Libations in the building adjacent to the brewery in order to further expand the brewery’s offerings. Now, along with craft beer, the brewery serves house-roasted coffee, espresso and breakfast. The coffeehouse also has an event space that can be reserved for private parties, meetings, and other gatherings.
This summer, SLV Brewing Co. in partnership with the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad will put on the 12th annual Rails and Ales Brewfest. This festival is perhaps one of the most unique in all of Colorado, and can only be accessed by rail. Ticket holders for the event are ferried by train along the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad through the backcountry of La Veta Pass to a remote stop known as Fir Station where they may spend the rest of the day sampling the wares of nearly fifty different breweries from around Colorado, eating BBQ, and enjoying live music on the mountaintop.
This year’s Rails and Ales festival will take place on June 15th from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets for the event are available on the SLV Brewing Co. website: www.slvbrewco.com. The event sells out quickly, so don’t wait to secure tickets to this one-of-a-kind mountain brewfest.
If you can’t make the festival, the brewery will be hosting a block party the night before the event to welcome the participating guest breweries. The party is free to the public and will feature live music and an outdoor beer garden. It would make for an excellent opportunity to check out the SLV Brewing Co. in all its glory during its most exciting time of the season.