Saturday July 10th, 2010 brought together two of my favorite things: Colorado and beer. My high school buddy Shannon had called me the weekend before and invited my wife and I to join him and his wife Whitney at a beer festival which was to be held in the small, mountain town of Salida, Colorado. I had visited this town almost exactly three years ago when they got married, and I served as a groomsman and photographer.
Our goal was to spend as little money as possible. First, I reserved a rental car through CarRentals.com. For the weekend we drove a Kia Optima for the grand total of $47 (plus gas). I was thankful to have locked in the rate on Monday (7/5), because by Friday (7/9) the rate had jumped to $112. I usually go with whichever car rental company is cheapest, and this time it happened to be Thrifty. From Monday to Thursday, we spent each day seeking sleeping arrangements that ranged from two different hotels (using free nights and/or program points) to camping out at Shannon’s in-laws’ property in Salida. We ended up choosing to stay with my wife’s step-sister at her condo in Denver’s “Tech Center” area.
Friday afternoon, (7/9) we flew from Dallas Love Field to Denver, via Tulsa on Southwest Airlines. We landed on-time at 6:00pm, picked up our rental car and were at the condo within an hour from landing.
Saturday morning (7/10), we drove South on I-25 and met Shannon and his wife in Monument, CO. The morning air was invigorating – cooler than anything we had felt in Dallas since April, and enhanced by a refreshing, pine forest scent. The clear sky was a glorious blue, highlighted by perfectly puffy clouds like you would see in a cartoon. Our three hour trek to Salida took us past (what claims to be) the “World’s Largest Rocking Chair.” But the best part of the drive was the final hour, speeding along the winding the Arkansas River.
We arrived in Salida at noon, and went directly to Amica’s – home of the best wood-fired pizza I’ve ever put to my lips. We were expecting a long wait due to the festival crowd, but only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. My wife and I shared the “Montenotte” pizza, which satisfied us both for $10.50. Amica’s also makes some delicious beer right in the store: most famously, their Green Chile Ale.
After lunch we walked a few blocks to Riverside Park for the 14th Annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous, located on the banks of the Arkansas River. We were greeted by a long, but smoothly-flowing line of beer fans. After having our IDs checked and paying the $25 entrance fee (THANKS Shannon & Whitney!), we made our way into the festival. We were given a commemorative pint glass, in which we would receive all of our beer samples that afternoon. I estimated the attendance at about 3,000 people and roughly 40 Colorado breweries were represented. We did our best to visit each brewery’s tent and sample each variety of beer, but after about the 15th sample they all began to taste unappealing. Below is a list of most of the beers we sampled. I wish I could provide a connoisseur’s review for each sample, but it was hard enough just keeping a list in the 4-hour window of the festival.
Rocky Mountain Brewewing Co – Stout (topped with vanilla ice cream) *no website?
Shamrock Brewing – Rock Llama Sour Beer (and “sour” is an understatement!)
The weekend was the perfect recipe of air travel, driving, mountains, weather, friends and beer! I would love to go back to Salida again next year. I had spent the three years between my visits to Salida telling my wife how beautiful Colorado is and how we should move to the state. It only took about 24 hours for her to agree that we should live there… someday.