The Beer Castle
By Bobby Bush
Continuing westward, we paused in the resort town of Vail, Colorado. This quaint, but
expensive village was once home to Hubcap Brewing, which opened in 1991 and ceased
operations in 1999 (but has since reopened as Lakota Chops & Hops Brewpub). I
thought I knew my way around, but we had to ask for directions once again before finding
Kaltenberg Castle Royal Bavarian Brewhouse at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola
in Lionshead Village.
Founded in 1998, this magnificent structure is unique. The first genuine Bavarian
style brewhouse in America, Kaltenberg is run by the family of Crown Prince Luipold of
Bavaria, a major player in south German beer business. Still taking in the structure’s
palatial interior, complete with large hand-painted murals and massive copper-clad
brewery, we settled down at a long community table for a brew or two. No sampler-size
glasses, we used the half-liter glasses as if they were. With noisy accordion player as
accompaniment, we first tasted Prinzregent Luitfold Weissbier. A traditional Bavarian
wheat, this cloudy gold ale was perfect to style with a smacking citrus bite. Kaltenberg
Pils, brewed to Reinheitsgebot purity standards as are the others, was a clear, golden and
deceivingly tasty. Its light but complex taste profile concluded with a sudden but hoppy
slap. Konig Ludwig Dunkel was surprising bland, in need of more maltiness, while
Millennium, a 7% abv dunkelweisen, was all it should be, a caramel-ish dark wheat beer of
We shared a fresh soft pretzel, drooling over a menu of Roast Pork in a Kaltenberg
Dark Beer Sauce Served with Red Cabbage and Dumplings and Wiener Schnitzel and
Schweinshax’n (Pork Shank), to name a few. Authentic in architecture, decorum and
beer, Kaltenberg Castle is a beauty of a brewpub.
Our next stop was not on our intenerary. We learned of Gore Range Brewery
from a group of tired skiers who plopped down beside us at Kaltenberg Castle. What a
rewarding conversation that turned out to be. Located in Edward, about ten miles west of
Vail, this non-touristy brewpub opened in September 1997. Noting a sign above the bar
which read “Mircobrews, macro-fun,” we went the sampler route. Great Sex Honey Ale
wafted a sweet aroma and proved to be a competent mild ale. American-style, Powder
Dry Pale Ale was medium bodied and fully hopped, while the clear copper Fly Fisher Red
Ale was malty and filling. A full-bodied cream stout, Biker Stout presented wonderfully
roasted intrigue, while Brewer’s Choice Millennium had a sweet Krispy Kreme nose.
Maltiness dominated but was not obnoxiously sweet in this strong ale.
The menu consisted of pizzas, sandwiches and a nice selection of entrees, including
Garlic & Herb Chicken, BBQ Ribs and Peanut Crusted Mahi Mahi. Another sign that
caught my eyes was positioned above one of the urinals: “Express Lane - two beers or
less.” Gore Range is my kind of brewpub.
Headed east toward Breckenridge, our hostile for the night, we stopped briefly at
Backcountry Brewery in Frisco. Founded in September 1996, this snow-bound brewpub
sits at a prime corner location, just off the freeway on the two-lane highway to
Breckenridge. Showing signs of tiredness, we set right to work. Ptarmigan Pilsner was
too fruity for style (I suspect it was an ale rather than proper lager), though it did have an
appropriate hoppy finish. Switchback Amber sported a floral flavor with apple notes.
Blackberry Brown Ale had a purple-ish tint and a very berry smelling head, though flavor
was not overbearingly sweet. Telemark IPA was hoppy throughout, yielding to a slight
sour end, while Peak One Porter was pleasantly roasty. Backcountry’s two seasonals
were a near flavorless Y2Kolsch and Breakfast Stout, a friendly medium bodied, mildly
This being my third or fourth visit to Backcountry, I sensed some deterioration in
beer quality. Though they did win a 1998 bronze GABF medal for the seasonal Maibock.
Hang on, this beer bus is still rolling.
(Next installemnt: #2 in Golden)
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush