Durango's four breweries make a pretty impressive range of beers. In fact, I'd put their lineups against those in any town of a similar size in the country.
Nevertheless, there are some gaps that you don't find in great beer cities like Portland and San Diego. So I decided to make a wish list of beers I would like to see in Durango.
Of course, I don't have to run a business, deal with ingredient costs or turn a profit. I just drink beer and write about it. So In the spirit of a childhood Christmas list that always goes half-fulfilled, I humbly submit my wish list for Durango's breweries:
1. A year-round saison. The saison, a beer style of Belgian origin light in color with a crisp, dry finish, is among my very favorite types of beer. It's also deplorably hard to find in Durango. Carver Brewing Co. last summer made a saison called Saison de Tour to mark the Tour de France. It tasted fine, but it lacked the carbonation and big, frothy pour found in exemplary saisons like Ommegang Hennepin. (Hennepin and Saison Dupont, by the way, are the only other saisons I've seen in Durango, at Star Liquors. And that's a crapshoot).
I would love to see a local brewery bottle a saison to enjoy at home - ideally in six-packs, which are far cheaper for their size than the 22-ounce bombers that saisons are typically bottled in. But it seems more likely that a Durango brewery would first test the market with a release in bombers.
When I was in Portland around Christmas, I marveled at how many saisons were available. A new brewery called Upright makes an entire line of saisons, each distinctly different than the others. There were also saisons from Boulevard in Kansas City and The Bruery in California. Can't Durango have just one to call its own?
2. A bottled imperial stout. Carver's and Steamworks both made excellent imperial stouts in 2009. How about bottling one so we can enjoy them at home in our own good time? I realize there's always growlers, but growlers have to be drank almost immediately or the beer goes flat, not to mention that drinking an entire growler of imperial stout is a tall order, even with help.
3. Durango Brewing Co. should add a hoppy beer to its year-round lineup. The current DBC lineup offers nothing for hop-heads. It's silly, because the brewery makes the superb, aggressively hopped Durango Pale Ale that it releases in bombers as a spring seasonal. Why not put it in six-packs year-round, keep it on tap and offer customers who like hops a choice?
4. Steamworks produces two excellent, specialized beers in bombers - Ale Diablo and Spruce Goose. But they've both been around for a while. How about something new along the same lines? Maybe that saison ...
5. When I recently talked to Thomas Larsen, head brewer at Ska Brewing Co., I asked him what ideas he has for Local Series #15 (#14 is the tasty Oak-aged Orange Cream Stout currently on shelves). He hadn't thought that far ahead. (Although I bet Clancy Calhoun's homebrew may end up being #15). How about some ideas, readers?
Another interesting tidbit: Larsen and other Ska brewers have brewed a few beers on Ska's 10-gallon pilot system that have yet to see the light of day. One is a Belgian-style take on an IPA, another is a black tripel. The brewery has a ton of taps, but not enough for everything Ska could put on tap. For now, these beers are hanging out in kegs.
These are just a few ideas of beers I'd like to see in Durango. What do you think? What have I overlooked? Please leave a comment.