You might say that Breckenridge Brewery started out of necessity. Originally from the East Coast, founder Richard Squire began his career, oddly enough, in the garment industry. He was skilled in the industry, having successfully developed a line of outdoor clothing in a young market. However, the call of the mountains eventually took hold. Squire decided to sell everything and move to the Rockies to become a ski bum.
Squire grew disappointed with the lack of fresh, quality craft beer in the mountains and decided to begin making his own. Friends and locals really liked his brew, and having no other outlet for fresh, handcrafted beers, began showing up at his door with empty bottles requesting more. Squire eventually got the hint and in 1990 opened one of the first modern microbreweries in Colorado — which now has over 140 breweries — right on the main street of the charming mountain town of Breckenridge.
After outgrowing its humble brewpub in the mountains, Breckenridge Brewery operations were eventually moved to Denver. However, the company still maintains the Breckenridge location, which has remained a popular tourist destination and local chill spot. I was wandering around Stone Beverage Center in Fairmount (which has a huge variety of craft beers, by the way), and I picked up a Breckenridge variety pack. With cooler weather approaching, I decided to try one of their darker brews, the Vanilla Porter.
Many people wonder about the difference between stouts and porters; in fact, they are similar styles with intertwined histories. Beer snobs like to bicker about the true definition of porter, but it suffices to say that porters are typically lighter in color and less toasty and complex than stouts. Stouts typically use larger quantities of roasted grains, which impart deep, coffeelike flavors. As a consequence, porters are usually a bit smoother and present a bitterness of a mellower quality than stouts.
Pouring from a 12-ounce bottle into a tulip glass, I noticed that the beer is very dark for a porter — an almost opaque, deep red-brown. The aroma is crisp, with hints of chocolate and caramel. The beer is super smooth, almost milky, and medium-bodied. There is a slightly roasted flavor up front, which is followed by a delicious lingering vanilla presence. This beer forgoes the strong, complex flavors typically associated with more robust porters but makes up for it with nice, clean drinkability and the unique flavor of vanilla, which perfectly complements the caramel and chocolate notes associated with porters.
This is the perfect beer to drink after a day of shreddin’ the pow on the slopes of the Rockies, which is probably why Squire first concocted it in the 1980s. If you’re looking for a more flavorful and robust porter, then turn to either Founders’ or Sierra Nevada’s offerings, for example. But if you’re in the market for a delicious, interesting beer that you can have three or four of and still be able to operate your ski bindings or navigate down the slopes without having a face-to-face encounter with a Colorado pine, then this is the brew for you.
4.7 percent ABV
$42 for a variety case of 24 bottles
My ratings (out of 5):