Denver’s nearby ski resorts’ best apres locations |

Denver’s nearby ski resorts’ best apres locations

by Heather Jarvis
Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge.
Photo by Krista Driscoll |

Summit County is king of the apres ski. Whether it’s lingering on the resort after the lifts stop turning, or heading down 4 O’Clock run into town, there are an abundance of options when it comes to choosing an afternoon watering hole. The choices can seem endless, but depending on the drinker’s preference, some hot spots can be a little more ideal than others. Here are some of our favorites when it comes to places for happy hour.

For the craft beer drinker

Although the brewery is less than two years old, Broken Compass Brewing has already started to make a name for itself in the industry and easily won the hearts of locals. It’s a toss-up between what makes Broken Compass so desirable — the atmosphere or the tasty brews.

The brewery has 12 taps, which they keep stocked with some staples that remain on the menu year-round and several rotators. The masterminds behind the beers try to keep at least one barrel-aged beer on tap using Breckenridge Distillery barrels for aging, said cofounder David Axelrod, and regular patrons can expect a new beer on tap about every month or so. “If it’s not the barrel-aged stuff then we are playing around with different recipes,” he said.

Back in September, Broken Compass brought home a bronze in the Field Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival, earning its first award after being open for only about 16 months. The brewery won the medal with its Coconut Porter, which Axelrod describes as “liquid crack,” and patrons call the “Almond Joy.”

While bringing home such a prestigious award has put the Breckenridge brewery on the map around the country, it remains a “locals’ spot.” Patrons are greeted by at least two or three wagging tails upon entry, and the community feel is enhanced by the lack of TVs and a plethora of board games. They don’t serve food, which is why pups are allowed inside, but bringing outside food in is encouraged. It’s a gathering spot for locals, but also welcomes tourists with open arms — giving folks from out of town a chance to “meet real locals,” and see “the natives in their natural environment,” Axelrod said.

On Monday nights, the brewery hosts a potluck, and gives away a growler, half growler and pint for best dishes. They also just started a Tuesday trivia night from 7-9 p.m., giving away gift cards.

“The potluck is just an awesome community builder, and a lot of fun for tourists too. … They get to come and feel like a part of the community,” Axelrod said. “… We’re looking forward to continuing our theme of building community out here.”

Broken Compass: 68 Continental Court, Breckenridge.

Other good bets:

The Bakers’ Brewery (531 Silverthorne Lane, Silverthorne); Backcountry Brewery (720 Main St., Frisco); Dillon Dam Brewery (100 Little Dam St., Dillon); Pug Ryan’s (104 Village Place, Dillon)

For the wine drinker

An upscale restaurant tucked away in an intimate setting just off the resort, Ski Tip Lodge in Keystone has become well known for its romantic atmosphere and elegant cuisine. Recently named one of’s Top 100 restaurants in the country for the second year in a row, its wine list also boasts an astounding 580 different wines. The entire wine list and bar is available during the lodge’s après ski from 3-5 p.m. daily, also serving a special happy hour food menu. There is special pricing on wine glass pours, with 23 offerings to choose from.

Ski Tip sommelier Megan Morgan said the Torre dei Beati “rosa-ae” of Motepulciano from Abruzzo, Italy, and the Chateau de Paraza “Cuvée Spéciale” from Minervois, France, (a blend of syrah, grenache and Mourvedre) are shining right now, and pair well across the entire gamut of happy hour plates that chef Jordan Alley offers. Ask her to choose her one favorite wine off the menu, and she’ll tell you it’s as hard as choosing a favorite child.

“You might have one in a particular situation, but it changes from day to day, season to season, vintage to vintage,” she said. She will admit that she is excited right now about the Scholium Project “Wolfskill Vineyards Reserve” cabernet sauvignon, from a tiny winery in the Suisun Valley of California.

“We tend to look for selections that are a little more unique and eclectic for our wine menu,” she said. “That is not to say that you absolutely can’t find them out and about in other restaurants and retail venues, but I would admit that off-the-beaten-path is the road we like to travel here at Ski Tip.”

The Ski Tip offers a four-course menu for dinner that changes daily, and Morgan and co-sommelier Kurtis Hammann offer a wine pairing to accompany each course, educating guests on the tale of history, passion and care that went into each bottle.

“I always tell people that we live in such a perfect age for enjoying wine; technology in transport and the focus of so many winemakers on quality over quantity in wine-making allows us to offer bottles from six different continents, a rainbow of styles, and prices for every budget,” she said. “We are always on the hunt for new discoveries to include and share with our guests.”

Ski Tip Lodge: 764 Montezuma Rd., Dillon

Other good bets:

Hearthstone (130 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge); Bagalis (320 E. Main St., Frisco); Fifth Avenue Grill (423 Main St., Frisco)

For the cocktail drinker

The Blue River Bistro in Breckenridge is known for its two-for-one martini happy hour and specialty craft cocktails. Right on Main Street, it’s an easy walk from the slopes and shopping. The restaurant offers happy hour deals twice daily — from 3-6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to midnight, featuring a two-for-one appetizer menu, two-for-one martinis, $3 drafts and $3 domestic bottles. More impressive is the fact that there are 26 martinis on the menu, along with an extensive list of seasonal cocktails to choose from.

“We like to muddle a lot of fresh fruit and fresh basil, mint and cucumbers,” said manager Scooter Crawford. “We try and find specialty liquors a scale above.”

The bar staff uses unique liqueurs in its cocktails such as elderflower, violet and Leopold Brother’s maraschino cherry or blackberry. Crawford said they like to use Colorado products whenever they can, and also use whiskey and vodka from Breckenridge Distillery.

Strawberry vodka and peach tequila infusions are also made in house, and more infusion options are available in the summer.

Some of the Bistro’s cocktails are even based off recipes from the Prohibition Era, such as the Violette Femme, which is created with Skyy vodka, Golden Moon crème de violette, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon and champagne.

One of the most popular happy hour martinis, Crawford said, is the Dirty Jalapeno, with Russian Standard vodka and jalapeno olive brine. His personal favorite drink is the Woodford Old Fashion, with Woodford Reserve bourbon, muddled orange and cherry, Dolin rouge vermouth and a dash of bitters.

The martini list includes a few unusual but tasty suspects, such as Scooter’s Dark Side, made with infused strawberry vodka, muddled basil leaves, aged balsamic and lemon simple syrup. They also do a twist on the traditional Moscow Mule with ginger shrub instead of ginger beer.

The Blue River Bistro also offers live jazz from 5-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Blue River Bistro: 305 N. Main St., Breckenridge

Other good bets:

Après Handcrafted Libations (130 S. Main St., Breckenridge); Modis (113 S Main St., Breckenridge); Tavern West (311 W. Main St., Frisco)

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