In 1978, home brewing was legalized in the United States, and one year later the first microbrewery opened in Colorado. Decades later, the state continues to pioneer the art of craft brewing and boasts one of the country’s—and the world’s—most impressive craft beer cultures, with hundreds of independent beer makers (and growing).
When you travel to Southern Colorado, you’ll find that same pioneering spirit in Alamosa, where beer is ingrained in the culture. For years, local farms have supplied barley and hops to large and small breweries, and the town is home to a handful of craft breweries. Plus, Alamosa was the birthplace of one of the state’s first craft malting operations.
If you also have a passion for craft beer, you’ll feel right at home in Alamosa. Here, we raise a glass to three breweries and their diverse selections of ales, lagers, stouts, porters, and malts.
San Luis Valley Brewing Company
San Luis Valley Brewing Company is a family-owned and -operated brewery founded by Angie and Scott Graber in 2006. They make their beer on-site, producing six year-round brews, four seasonal brews, and four guest brews. That lineup features a variety of flavor profiles from the unique chili-infused Valle Caliente to the dark Ol’ 169 Oatmeal Stout.
Beyond a growing number of fans, their menu of delicious beverages has garnered noteworthy acclaim and awards. The Valle Especial—a Mexican-style lager featuring yeast from Mexico—carries multiple awards, including the Bronze Medal from the Craft Lager Festival. Colorado news magazine The Pulp describes the brewery as “a must-visit for beer lovers” and a “hobby out of control.”
The brewery runs on a seven-barrel system, which can process close to 220 gallons of beer per brew—the equivalent of three full bathtubs. Each recipe is mixed with water from the Rio Grande River Basin—perhaps a magic touch—and the beer is made with hops and barley grown in Colorado. The company is now home to a coffee bar as well, so you can get your caffeine fix here, too. You can also get a great cup of coffee around the corner at Roast, which crafts its own small-batch roasted coffee and serves breakfast and lunch.
Best friends Derek Heersink and Mark Martinez founded SquarePeg Brewerks with the idea of producing “farm-to-tap” beer. In pursuit of that goal, they use ingredients from local Colorado farms and process the brews in their local hub. The quirky, memorable name has a cool story, too. Heersink and Martinez say it refers to the fact that starting a business is hard work—much like the saying, “fitting a square peg in a round hole.”
The lifelong friends met in third grade, and during their college years, amidst the explosion of Colorado’s beer industry, they discovered a mutual passion for the craft. Martinez’s role is centered on brewing, while Heersink has a family lineage in agriculture and heads farming operations and other aspects of running the business.
Using a three-barrel system, SquarePeg produces a wide variety of specialty beers, from The Duke, a sweet lager with a butterscotch aroma, to the coffee-infused Perky Porter, blended with a Colombian roast. According to Untappd ratings, the microbrewery has poured 55 different brews and received a 4-out-of-5-star review from more than 1,000 taste testers—something that certainly deserves a toast.
The Colorado Farm Brewery
The Colorado Farm Brewery has especially deep roots. More than 80 years ago, Ray Coody (Cody) settled in the San Luis Valley and started a farm to support his wife and sons. Now, four generations later, that land provides fertile ground for the Colorado Malting Company. Current owners Jason and Josh Cody are kin to Ray and harvest the same soil he planted in eight decades ago.
In 2017, building off the success of the malting enterprise, the Codys opened Colorado Farm Brewery, which brews beer made entirely from ingredients grown on their farm. Josh, the head brewer, employs the farm’s hops, grains, well water, and a yeast strain that’s native to the property.
The brewery also joins forces with other breweries and distilleries to create special batches using ingredients grown on the farm. For example, they partnered with Laws Whiskey House and Colorado Malting Company to craft a Barrel Aged Rye, an intriguing marriage of craft beer and craft whiskey.
As passionate members of the craft-beer community, the Codys do much more than apply their trade at their own brewery and malting facility. Josh serves as an international beer judge and guest lecturer at universities and events around the world. He’s also traveled throughout Scandinavia to study ancient styles of brewing with the country’s multi-generational brewers.
As you’re sampling beers at The Colorado Farm Brewery, you’ll may be able to chat with the owners themselves about their excellent beers and facility (if you want guaranteed time with them, schedule a private tour and tasting beforehand).
Breweries in Alamosa offer a distinctly different experience than those of many big-city taprooms. In Alamosa, you’re in the heart of the San Luis Valley, where generations of farmers have harvested the raw ingredients for beer. The people pouring your drinks have deep roots in the art of beer-making, and they’ve put their knowledge, passion, and locally grown ingredients into everything they do. If it’s possible for a beer to give you the taste of a place, you’ll find it in this Southern Colorado town.
Written by Morgan Tilton for Matcha in partnership with Alamosa CVB.