Posts BySue Bjorkman – PorchDrinking.com
CAN YOU? What single element can turn previously laid-back fun-loving brewers into nose-to-the-grindstone workers? Oh, that could only be…success. CEO and Head Brewer Mike LaCroix of Soulcraft Brewery in Salida, CO and his team are transitioning from very limited bottling to full-out canning.
On his first day off in three weeks, he takes some time to breathe and reflect on this next transition: The “big spark” he believes will revolutionize this small brewery into a nationally recognized brand.
In Elevation Beer Company’s parking lot, there are often more mountain bikes than vehicles. Elevation is in Poncha Springs, Colorado, a tiny town just outside the small town of Salida in the heart of Colorado’s most mountainous region. From whitewater rafting to bagging 14ers to riding the endless trails at wrecking-ball speed, it’s all celebrated here with great craft beer. Naturally.
The idea came to him in a dream. Soulcraft Brewing’s head brewmaster Mike LaCroix was so focused on brainstorming different kinds of beers to open the brewery with in November 2016 that it continued as he slept. He woke up and thought, let’s do a really great Coconut Milk Stout. And he did.
Which came first, the pizza or the beer? Okay, this isn’t as philosophical as the classic chicken and the egg question; I’ll go ahead and tell you. It was the pizza. Moonlight Pizza & Brewpub opened in Salida, Colorado in 1994 and began creating handmade thick crust pizzas with a decidedly Colorado-hippy vibe. And it was good. So very cravably good.
At first, this seemed so easy. Just write about the best things to do, see, experience, eat and drink in Chaffee County. But here’s the problem: It’s only for 2 days and 2 nights. Being in and around Salida and Buena Vista brings on that kid-in-the-candy store feeling. Except in terms of outdoorsy adventures. I want it all! So, I’ll steer you to a few of my favorite things, then it’s up to you to see where it all leads.
Created for celebration—that’s the genesis of Elevation Pilsner. And it shows. It may not seem like the reason for creating a beer would make a difference in the taste, but somehow it does. It’s a light gold, thirst-quenching beer with surprising bursts of fruity (is that honeysuckle?) and earthy flavors. With an IBU level of 40, it’s more of a happy beer than a hoppy one. And that’s alright with me.
Elevation Beer Company opened their doors in Poncha Springs (“Crossroads of the Rockies”) in Chaffee County, Colorado in 2012. When it found itself doing very well indeed four years later, the brewers said, “Hey, let’s celebrate!” For brewers, the height of celebration is getting really creative by unleashing their considerable chemist and artist skills.
In most small towns, it’s a given that everybody knows everybody’s business. This is a bummer when you’re trying to get away with something but is entertaining when someone else is. But for the Ark Valley Libation Society (AVLS), this small town phenomenon totally works in their favor. For this group of craft libation experts – four breweries, a winery and two distilleries – everybody’s business is everybody’s business.
Or as Andy Astor of Elevation Beer Company and AVLS vice president says, “Rising tides raise all boats.”
In Colorado’s crazy-competitive craft beer climate, what makes the difference between soaring success and sorry, we’re closed? Sometimes, in addition to making amazing beers, it helps to find a niche. Soulcraft Brewery in Salida, Colorado, found theirs, a little unexpectedly—in music.
A passionate group of local investors opened Soulcraft Brewery in November 2016 with every intention of simply being a local tasting room serving incredible beer. It wasn’t surprising that the locals responded immediately. It also wasn’t too shocking that tourists traveling to nearby Monarch Mountain Ski Resort responded big time. Soulcraft is right on Highway 50 with a bright neon sign shouting, “Brewery.” This is more than enough to entice adventure-seekers rolling through.
But then an intriguing thing happened. This music-loving town of just 5,500 residents had always had more soul than space. But Soulcraft’s location was in a large, former furniture warehouse so its rare spaciousness got people thinking. Dreaming. Could their tasting room become an entertainment destination? Oh yea.
Chaffee County’s microbreweries each offer something much more intrinsic and intangible than just great beer. All four radiate that laid back, sun shining, day off; everyone’s your friend, nowhere-else-I-need-to-be kind of feeling. Yea, that’s the beer buzz talking, but it’s also about the human factor here. It’s about local brewers and entrepreneurs who create craft beers with that “I get paid for doing this?!” grin on their faces. Their work-hard, play-hard attitude permeates these taprooms. This summer they’re letting the sun shine on their creativity. Drink ‘em while it’s hot. No extra charge for the spectacular mountain and river views. Visit their taprooms and also sample their specialties at the Colorado Brewer’s Rendezvous in Salida, July 8.
Most beer lovers assume beer fests are for them. Like the liquid smorgasbord is a thank you gift for being loyal craft beer fans. But the Colorado Brewers Rendezvous wasn’t originally intended for you, the beer drinker. Don’t get me wrong, you’re invited now, you’re more than welcome, but initially it was just an annual membership meeting of the Colorado Brewers Guild. When a bunch of brewers gather to rendezvous, though, it’s going to be a party. And parties are meant to be shared.
Feature image credit: FIBArk Facebook page.
Pretty much Anywhere USA can host a music fest. Even a beer fest can find home in plenty of locales. But for a funky festival like FIBArk, it takes a river. In this case, it’s the Arkansas River rushing through Salida in Chaffee County, Colorado. Famous for whitewater rafting, this wild stretch of water is a natural playground for kayaks, canoes, stand up paddleboards, tubes and fly fishing. So FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) celebrates the transformation that happens when the snowmelt turns the river into a thrilling, rapid-filled adventureland.