Saturday, February 07, 2009

Colorado Brewery Tour: Pug Ryan's

When I wrote my column for The Gazette, I did a monthly feature on a different Colorado brewery, usually corresponding to a place more people are likely to visit in that season (ski towns in winter, college towns during football season, etc.) I'd like to restart that tradition today with a visit to Pug Ryan's, a Dillon brewpub/steakhouse in the heart of ski country.

Named after an outlaw whose gang held up the game room at Denver's Breckenridge Hotel in 1888, Pug's is a cozy spot in downtown Dillon that's usually crowded enough on weekends that you'll have to wait for a dinner table. That's OK, as the small bar that fronts the brewing area has a moderately sized selection of beers (usually five or six on tap at a time) that are uniformly enjoyable without being overly challenging.

One of Pug's signatures is its Pallavicini Pilsner, a Bohemian-style pilsner named after a ski run at Arapahoe Basin. A multiple GABF award winner, this adds a crisp, sparkling finish to an overall smoothness that makes it a subtle but flavorful leader of this genre of brews.

The Over the Rail Pale Ale - named after a near disaster involving a brew kettle and a less-than-smooth installation process - is another easy drinker with a light grassy taste and a citrus dance on the tongue. An overall bitter sensation leaves a lasting mark on a beer whose taste really picks up around mid-glass.

A personal favorite is the Coffee Porter, which comes on with a grounded-bean scent that doesn't hammer you as much as it rings naturally of coffee flavor in a less harsh form. The immediate visceral assault with a slight peppery late-breaking taste climbs inside your mouth, leaving you to marvel at how light-bodied it is for a big-tasting beer.

On tap for the season is a Saison, a 7.7 percent ABV sticky treat with an overwhelming initial sugary impression that fades slightly into a buttery soft quality. The heavy yeast quality makes this quite perfumey, giving it almost a rock sugar quality that could render it too sharp for some (like my wife, who was helping me taste).

Others on Pug's menu are of slightly lesser note. The lightly filtered Morning Wood Wheat has the fizzy attributes of a golden ale and is easy, though not particularly memorable. And the Scottish Ale Formerly Known As Kiltlifter has a light-bodied quality that made it blend well with our burger but didn't hold up as well on its own.

Though it's not on tap at the moment, one of Pug's great creations is its daring Hellesbock, a summertime treat with more heft than most of its brethren and an almost amber feel. It's usually making its debut around the time of the Memorial Day festival at Arapahoe Basin.

Oh, and the food? Steak, classic burgers, ribs, fish - after a couple of back bowls, it hits the spot. As does the beer in this tiny brewery that often is overlooked but definitely shouldn't be.

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