Called the “Antique Capital of Colorado,” Florence the quaint, little town packed with hidden gems.
Yes, I’m talking about the kind that can be found in any of the over 20 antique shops that line the streets of downtown. But I’m also talking about the local businesses and recreation destinations that have less of a mainstream-status than those of other Colorado small towns.
While Florence’s story is dominated by the federal prison complex located on its outskirts, it is far from just a “prison town.” Florence Mountain Park, for example, is one of the best-kept secrets in the Arkansas Valley as far as hiking is concerned. And the Florence Brewing Company is perhaps the best place to grab a well-deserved beer after making that six-mile trek along Newlin Creek through the park’s virtually undisturbed forestland.
That’s just what I did on my latest excursion to Florence with a group of friends. Stumbling back into town, our hiking boots caked with mountain mud, we happened upon the brewery just in time for it to open. The double doors at the main entrance were propped open wide, shedding some inviting natural light on the taproom’s main seating area immediately inside.
Owner and operator of Florence Brewing Company, Hans Prahl, was inspired by the style of early pubs – back when they were still called “public houses.” The picnic tables set up inside are a nod to the community-style seating that is a staple of traditional pubs, while the string lights draped across the ceiling and hanging on some of the walls keep the ambiance delightfully modern.
After taking in the brewery’s cozy atmosphere, it was time to get down to business: what beer are we going to order? The tap list at Florence Brewery Company is extensive, boasting over 20 taps. With clever names like “LeprecHan’s Tears” (a glitter-infused twist on their classic Amber), “Heidi’s Dark Secret” (a smooth and malty Dunkelweizen), and “Not Your Grandma’s Pie” (a lip-smacking Apple Pie Amber), it’s hard not to want to try them all.
I went with a peachy Blonde Ale number called “Arctic Rose” that, despite the chilly name, transported me straight to summer. Another favorite of the group was “The Apple Berry:” a Honey Malt Blonde with a hint of strawberry made with apples directly from Colon Orchards in Canon City.
Sourcing local ingredients for their house-made craft beers is an important part of the brewing process at Florence Brewing Co. Prahl frequents the fields of Marigold Valley Hop Farm located just outside of Cripple Creek, where he handpicks the hops he uses in the beers he brews back in Florence.
Marigold Valley Hops and Florence Brewing Company have been partners for a couple of years, and Prahl says the hops produced at Marigold Valley are some of the best he’s ever used. “As a brewer, it’s a real treat for me to actually see the level of quality and the level of care they put into their process and into their product,” said Prahl previously of the hop farm, “We’re very conscious about what we use and where we get it from. And, of course, supporting local businesses is a good thing, too.”
Prahl’s commitment to keeping Florence Brewing Company true to its local roots is especially admirable and only goes to show how valuable it is when local businesses work together and support each other. Not only does it result in a quality product, but it also creates a strong sense of community that is just as much a central component of the brewery as responsibly sourced ingredients.
“Exceptional beer, hometown atmosphere” – that is the motto of Florence Brewing Company, a perfect summation of the vision Prahl had for the brewery since the beginning: a place where people can come in as strangers and leave as friends.
Florence Brewing Company is open Monday through Thursday from 2 to 10 pm, and Friday through Sunday from 12 to 10 pm. Aside from pretzels and pork rinds, the brewery doesn’t offer much in the way of food. But the staff encourages patrons to bring in their own food from any of the local eateries within a block of the brewery, or have something delivered. Florence Brewing Company is also a pet-friendly establishment, so your four-legged friends don’t have to miss out on the fun. The brewery’s specials and tap list change often. So, for more information, call them at 719-784-7441 or visit their website: www.florencebrewing.com.