Today I got to check out Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado, and got a personal tour from the brewmaster himself, Matt Darling. His first words when he saw me: “Chive on!” Awesome. Just plain awesome.
You can tell the brewers by their epic beards. It’s just a fact.
Matt Darling has been homebrewing since he was 15 years old, starting with vodka and wine before moving to beer. He’s been the head brewer at Breckenridge Brewery for five years after working as the assistant to Drake Schmid for three. He considers John Jordan, the brewer at Flying Monkey who is also a microbiologist, his mentor. I had a mini-interview with Matt to follow:
Becki: What was your “gateway” beer that made you really appreciate good craft beer?
Matt: Probably Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. (Very classy “gateway”, Matt!)
Becki: Of all of the beers at Breckenridge, what’s your personal favorite.
Matt: Our ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
Becki: Ooooh, can I try that one? Is it year round?
Matt: No, it’s seasonal. We make it in autumn.
Becki: *Sniffle* *sad face*
So my quotes aren’t quite exact, but all the information in them is! (At least I think it is. Correct me if anything’s wrong, Matt!)
The brewery is located just south of the busy part of Main Street, nestled in between dozens of aspen trees.
When you walk in, you’re greeted by the entire brew system. It’s laid out behind the bar in all its glory. On brew days, you can actually sit at the bar and watch them go through the entire process. You’d be pretty trashed by the end though – on brewing days Matt is there from 9am to 6pm with only his assistant, Jimmy Walker, to help. That mash tun has to be filled twice in order to fill one fermenter. That’s a crapload of brewing!
The entire brewpub is bigger than it appears from the outside. The second floor that’s not filled with fermenters is used for seating, with lovely views of the brewery.
Oh, and the mountains. Those are lovely too…
Excuse the following blurry images – macro in dim lighting. Upstairs they have the specialty grains in the mill room. All the regular grains are located in a silo behind the brewpub.
Once all the ales are fermented, they’re transferred down to the refrigerated basement into gigantic kegs where they’re siphoned up to the brewery until they’re empty. It doesn’t take too long. They brew about four days a week during summer to keep up with demand here. In winter, it’s up to six times a week! Them snowboarders get thirsty!
Delicious Cascade hops! They use pellets instead of whole leaf hops to avoid clogging their brew system.
Back up at the bar I got to try the beer from the “brewer’s handle”. It was a Belgian pale ale with Trappist ale yeast pitched in – beautiful golden color with slightly fruity esters. I was too busy drinking it to get a picture. The beer above is their seasonal brown ale that had been run through the brand new lines in order to allow the hoppy aroma to really come out. They have a barrel that they got from Breckenridge Distillery filled with this brown downstairs, absorbing all the intense bourbon flavors. I wish I could be in town when they open that one!
Here’s the wonderful, big board full of all of their brews, excluding the few fresh seasonals they have out now: Lucky “U” IPA, Oatmeal Stout, 471 Double Hopped IPA and Baldy Mountain Brown (I think that’s what I tried above).
Of course, since it is a brewPUB, I had to try their food! I got the grilled vegetable sandwich – portobello mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese topped with fresh spinach, piled onto fresh ciabatta bread and covered with pesto sauce. Holy frick, this was amazing. Even better was the beer they suggested I pair with it:
Vanilla Porter. Out of this freakin’ world! Seriously, I can’t fully describe the awesomeness of this beer. There are no aroma hops used in this, so the vanilla and malt smell comes through cleanly. The first sip is slightly sweet with a warm vanilla flavor rounded out with a full mouthfeel and faint touch of hop bite that lingers on your tongue after you swallow. Only 4.7% ABV, but since I just came from sea level, that was enough to make me feel it!
Thanks again to Matt for letting me barge in and giving me all the info! I’ll be back tomorrow to try a few more beers – gotta try them while I can since they don’t distribute to California. *Sniffle* *sad face*
12 Responses to Breckenridge Brewery
I really enjoyed reading your blog about Breckenridge Brewery. It’s one of my favorite places to visit. I head up there twice a year once in the summer for a volleyball tournament and once in the winter to ski. I always stop at Breck Brewery! Glad you are enjoying one of my slices of heaven!! Can’t wait to get back there and out of Afghanistan!
Enjoy your time in mountain/beer country! If you get a chance head down to Drydock Brewing in Aurora, CO. The owner started with his own homebrewing store (where I got my start) and turned the back side of his shop into a brewery. He’s very knowledgeable, nice and pleasant to talk to. Also makes some dang good beer!
Take care and Chive On!
I wish I had time to check it out, but not this trip. I’ll make it a point to get out there next time I’m in the Denver area – sooner than later!
God bless the chive for turning me onto your blog.
The Vanilla Porter is one of my favorites. It’s actually sitting in my fridge right now! (they DO distribute to AZ) and that veggie sandwich also looked amazing. can’t wait to see the next adventure!
I’m jealous of your distribution privileges! So very, very jealous!
Vanilla porter? You’re kiddin me! Your description of this beer as I read it is making me salivate. Can’t wait to get to Breckenridge one of these days to try it.
Nope, NOT kiddin’ ya! I’ll treat you to your first Vanilla Porter if we happen to be in Breck at the same time 🙂
After reading this blog entry, I’m putting “Visit the Breckenridge Brewery” on my to-do list. I love their Vanilla Porter, and the Avalanche Ale is also top-notch.
I hope you get to sample some other Colorado-based beers while you’re in the state. CO has an awesome selection of beer to choose from: Laughing Lab, 90 Shilling, and Samurai Rice Ale are all excellent choices.
90 Shilling is my favorite amber off all time – at least so far. I love anything that comes from Odell! I’ll keep an eye out for those other two around town tomorrey. Thanks!
Becki, love the blog. I’m going to be staying near Breckenridge later this summer for a week with my family. I’ll deffinitly have to check this place out a few times. So do you ever plan on taking this blog to Europe? I’ve lived in Italy the last three years and I have to tell you the beer in Germany is wonderful. Keep drinking and chive on!
I would absolutely love to, budget permitting! Enjoy Breck! It’s a gorgeous place!
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