Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pueblo's Resurrected Gem

Diana Bailey, co-owner of Walter's Beer, describes Pueblo as a town in a time warp, a place where classic cars still roam many streets and people seek a slower life than that which dominates other fast-paced Front Range cities.

But even if one were to step into a time machine and crack open a Walter's Beer - the hometown lager specialist that dominated the Pueblo scene from its 1889 opening to its 1975 original demise - it's unlikely they'd enjoy it as much as what Diana and her brother Andrew are serving today. The pair reopened Walter's in 2014, and they're serving up some heady beers in the backroom of an old train station that both highlights the blue-collar city's history and moves its brewing industry well into the 21st century.

After Andrew pleaded with the family that had owned the original Walter's by promising to keep it true to its roots, the brewery is serving up a Pre-Prohibition Pilsner that makes you long for the days before major American beer makers starting throwing rice and corn into the style to dumb it down. It's smooth and quite full-bodied, a darker lager that traces back to a time when the brewery was so strong that it actually made it through Prohibition.

Like its forebear, the new brewery also serves a Bock, though Diana acknowledged that it's not derived from the original recipe. And that's OK, as the new version is Walter's standout, a rich and very malty lager with a taste that lies somewhere between a dirty chocolate and a sweetly roasted malt bomb.

The local favorite is Walter's Pueblo Chile Beer, a lighter-bodied beer that has the roasty, earthy flavor of chile without any harsh heat from the pepper. Diana said that nine out of 10 growler refills leave full of that potable.

The Ace in the Hole IPA is balanced but doesn't have the big flavor that many expect from the style, and the Volksweizen has a subtle tartness. The only disappointing beer on the menu was the Steel City Steam, a California common both light-bodied and unassertive.

Walter's though, is a true find - a place where you can get an impromptu tour on a Friday night and stare at the neon signs and photos that signify the city's past. It's definitely worth a stop when you're in town.

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