Following the brewer

Former resident making a name, new brews in Telluride

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— With Steamboat Springs now lacking a brewery of its own, locals have to search elsewhere for good Colorado microbrews.

Following former Steamboat Brewery and Tavern brewer Chris Fish to his new hometown -- and new brewpub -- is a good bet.

Fish left town Nov. 9, around the time Steamboat's only brewpub closed its doors, to take a job as the brewmaster at Smuggler's Brew Pub in Telluride.

Now the only brewery in Telluride, it boasts the distinction of being the highest brewery in North America at 8,750 feet.

It has 13 original beers, but to get one, you have to go south. Smuggler's beers are available only in Telluride bars and restaurants and on taps in Gunnison and Ouray.

However, Fish recently got Smuggler's beer on tap at the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery in Boulder, where he first learned to brew, he said.

Since his arrival in Telluride, Fish has adjusted the recipes of Smuggler's seven original brews as well as adding four completely new beers of his own, he said.

The four new beers are worth the hours of driving to try, Fish said.

San Juan Skyhop is a Northwest-style, over-hopped amber made from a recipe the Fish learned in Oregon, he said.

The 10:13 Oatmeal Stout is also new. The name comes from a lyric in the Widespread Panic song "Arlene." ("Well I get up every morning about 10:13/ Six pack of stout ...")

The number is also the specific gravity number that the beer finishes on, Fish said.

("Gravity," according to www.beerchurch.com, is the weight of a liquid relative to the weight of an equal volume of water. Gravity is used as an indication of the amount of alcohol present in the finished beer.)

The third beer Fish added to Smuggler's list is Powder Night Espresso Porter, released on Feb. 9. It is brewed with a strong espresso bean, making it a good drink for high-energy evenings or a good breakfast drink, Fish said.

"There is not a better breakfast beer out there that I've had," he said.

Fish also added a traditional, high-alcohol, malty Winter Ale to round out his first-round repertoire.

His secret for the perfect beer, Fish said, is love.

"I'm not joking," he said. "You have to love making beer, you have to be having fun for it to be good."

Smuggler's Brew Pub is located in downtown Telluride, one block from the gondola.

"It's the most beautiful setting I can imagine for a brewery," Fish said.

To get to Telluride, take Colorado Highway 131 through Oak Creek to Wolcott, then follow Interstate 70 to Grand Junction. Take Colo. 550 south to Ridgeway, and then head 23 miles west on Colo. 62.

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