Cory Forster, brewmaster at The Bakers' Brewery in Silverthorne, Colorado, is high every day of his life. It's not an unusual state in this ski-resort town of 3,800, an hour west of Denver. But it's not because of some debilitating drug habit. It's because Silverthorne is 9,035 feet above sea level.
Forster, who worked for 16 years at the Dam Brewery in the neighboring town of Dillon, opened Bakers' in a former Village Inn diner this past March.
"I have a friend in Minnesota who makes great bread," he says, "and we've always had this idea to build a brewery that offered really good homemade bread and sandwiches with our beer. The bread's a lot of the focus, but really, we've got a great team across the board."
Brewing, like baking, works differently at altitude. Water boils at around 194 degrees Fahrenheit in Silverthorne instead of the usual 212, which requires adjustments to most brew recipes. Barrel aging is also complicated by the thinner air, causing more evaporation of the beer inside.
"Having the boiling point that low means the hops aren't utilized as much," Forster notes. "If you're aiming for a certain IBU target, you have to add more hops than usual."
Despite that, many of Colorado's most well-known local breweries ply their trade nearby some of the highest peaks in the Rockies. A few other must-visits for your next roadie:
Broken Compass Brewing (Breckenridge, 9,600 feet): A short hike from the Breckenridge Ski Resort parking lot, Broken Compass has been making waves with their West Coast-style IPAs, as well as a coconut porter that won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival this year. They plan to open a full-on brewpub at Breckenridge's Main Street in the future, nestled in among the T-shirt shops and fancy-pants après-ski restaurants.
Crazy Mountain Brewing (Edwards, 7,221 feet): Roaming dogs frequently outnumber customers at Crazy Mountain, whose canned beers see occasional distribution in Oregon. It's an extremely laid-back place, and the beer is a match for that philosophy, from the sessionable Mountain Livin' Pale to the malty and complex Horseshoes & Hand Grenades ESB.
Telluride Brewing (Telluride, 8,750 feet): This majestic-looking retreat, filled with elderly hippies and shaggy-bearded mountain men, has fully adopted their local brewery. Every bar in town—including the one in the New Sheridan Hotel downtown, virtually unchanged since it was built in 1895—has Telluride beer on tap, usually their trademark Tempter IPA or roasty Face Down Brown. Head to the brewery itself on the outskirts of town for the real goods, though, such as a crowler (a cross between a can and a growler) of their Freaky Fish Belgian double IPA.