Rocky Mountain Food Report: Telluride Brewing Company Breaks into the Colorado Springs Market

The only thing better than highlighting local talent is the cultivation of community through culinary events that invite multiple passionate businesses to the table. RMFR with fellow sponsor Focus on the Beer welcomes Telluride’s craft beer to Colorado Springs for a collaborative pop up.

On Monday, August 7th Telluride Brewing Company partners with chefs Mark Henry from Rooster’s House of Ramen and Justin Edgar from, host venue, The Collective: A Social House. The one-night-only tap takeover begins at 5:00 p.m. with a handful of Telluride’s beers on draft, all for $6, alongside suggested a la carte pairings priced $10.50 to $12.

As rad as it will be to have a pseudo, guest brewery set up shop, it’s also a continuation of the summer long  celebration of a beer very close to Telluride’s heart. May, stamped the release of their Russell Kelly Pale Ale in cans to commemorate the inspiring life of their late friend, for whom the beer is named after. We got to chat with co-founder and brewmaster, Chris Fish, and President and co-founder Tommy Thacher, about how this special seasonal has become a staple and why it embodies their exploratory way of life in the isolated mountain town.

“Russell is a one of a kind mutant,” says Fish. “He was one of the first people I met when I came to this town 16 years ago. We only had a few brief years to hang out with him, but the dude made an impression on me.”

A top expedition kayaker, skiier, paraglider, a “Deadhead” (with a claim to have seen over 100 Grateful Dead shows) Kelly excelled at extreme sports and is portrayed as larger than life. His photography, which chronicles his outdoor accomplishments, has spurred a film festival in Telluride and has been featured in catalogs of the well-known outdoorsy brand Patagonia.

The secret ingredient is Telluride - Chris Fish, Brewmaster

“He was the happiest dude on the planet,” says Fish. “He’d be riding class four or five rapids with a cigarette in his mouth and he was into tasty beer, as am I. One of his favorites was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Me and a bunch of his friends just wanted to have a party and pay tribute so we started with the idea of Sierra Nevada and jacked it up.”

The improvement on the well-known Northern California based beer came as a surprise even for Fish and caught on famously with Telluride locals and those who knew Kelly. It became an annual addition to their lineup brewed every spring at the end of ski season, Kelly’s favorite time of year. It began as Russell Kelly Class 5 made with mosaic hops, which at the time were still new to the game. The recipe has had a slight evolution but maintains the “mosaic action because we loved it so much,” says Fish.

“We put it out across the state and it gained a lot of traction so then we made it year-round,” says Fish. “We thought it’d be the coolest thing ever to get Russell into a can so we can bring him onto the river or wherever we want to go. We’ve taken kegs of him everywhere.”

On a notorious day of drinking, May 5th the pale ale with an image of Russell Kelly took a transcendent leap into the portable, aluminum vessel.

“It was one of those moments when it came out in a can that I knew he was looking down and smiling,” beams Fish. “It was a rowdy fun release with simultaneous parties at Freshcraft in Denver and at the brewery.”

The pop up and pairings will feature Russell Kelly Pale Ale with the option to match it up next to a Creole spiced burger topped with derby cheese, Dr. Pepper and balsamic caramelized onions and wilted spinach on a ciabatta roll with a side of fries for $12.

Telluride Brewing also presents their decorated Face Down Brown, rye malt Beaver Pond Lemongrass Blonde, and bright and bold variations, Freaky Fish and Fishwater Double IPA.

Fish refers to the Face Down Brown as “the accident that put us on the map,” made with the intention to be a one-off seasonal beer. Instead it went forward to win gold at World Beer Cup 2012, mere months after Telluride Brewing Co. opened. It continues to rack up medals in the American style brown ale category with additional gold at Great American Beer Festival in 2012 and 2014 and a bronze this past fall, 2016. Face Down is a best seller for Telluride and will be available to pair with a jalapeño and beer braised bratwurst with Shropshire cheese and crispy baby portobello mushrooms on a pretzel bun plus fries for $11.

Beaver Pond Lemongrass Blonde is Telluride’s take on a Belgian strong blonde ale. It’s similar flavor profiles can compliment chef Mark Henry’s candied ginger cured pork belly bahn mi made with lemongrass and green onion mayo, cilantro pesto and quick pickled vegetables with a cucumber salad dressed in a sweet lemongrass vinaigrette for $12.

“It’s one of our stinkier beers and the ABV (alcohol by volume) has crept up over the years but it doesn’t taste like it,” says Fish. “A well-made Belgian beer hides alcohol and it’s definitely poundable.”

Two IPA’s will be on draft both representing the head brewers last name.

Fishwater Double IPA, one of Telluride’s most popular beers and coveted name that the brewer had been saving, can upgrade with chicken fried cod, cilantro crema and smoked tomato pico de Gallo inside a steamed corn tortilla.

Freaky Fish, a Belgian Double IPA, can accompany a grilled Mahi Mahi with pickled red onions, charred limes, chunky grilled corn salsa, avocado and bacon mousse served on a grilled corn tortilla. The fish taco duo is $10.50.

“Freaky fish is one of my favorites,” says Fish. “It’s an end of a long day kind of beer.” With huge American hops and over 8 percent ABV, we concur.

Telluride agrees that the pairing will be a unique opportunity to dive deeper into what beer can be in the culinary sphere, optimizing distinct nuances that otherwise are overlooked.

“It’s a great way to enjoy the beer more and get more flavors,” says Fish. “It’s definitely fun to get a chef’s take and it can open up a whole new view of that beer when done well.”

Although Telluride Brewing Co. is a house-hold name and a bucket list spot in Colorado, the Springs has proven to be a more difficult area to garner distribution. “Colorado Springs has been a tricky market for us,” says Thacher who hopes to change that as he reserves alumni status at Colorado College. “It’s a market that we feel is growing and what better way to come show off what we’re doing by bringing Russell Kelly into the house,” says Fish.

The Collective: A Social House is one of the only venues in the Springs to offer Telluride Brewing Co. beers and to bring the intangible “it factor” to an already craft brew loving community.

“The secret ingredient is Telluride,” says Fish. “The water for sure, we’re surrounded by snow pack. Skiing, snowboarding in the winter, on the river in the summer and the crazy live music scene we have up here. What brings it all back together is our beer and it’s a celebration of all that.”

91.5 KRCC is partnering with The Rocky Mountain Food Report to present stories from their website about previews of new restaurants, updates on longtime favorites, dinners, pop-ups and more as they cover the Pikes Peak region’s food scene.